Attempts to sell the smart grid to electricity consumers and taxpayers have understandably leaned toward promoting the carrot of customer-side applications and their benefits, the stick being regulatory mandate. Unfortunately, these promised benefits, while attractive, are not the whole story, and will likely not be fully realized for many years. If the carrot cannot be affordably delivered soon, the appearance of overstated promises, especially given the recent hype and media attention, might ignite a consumer/taxpayer backlash that could derail smart grid progress. And the stakes are high.
The smart grid is more than a smart meter, and is a must for keeping the lights on and electricity prices in check for the early 21st century. The reasons have their roots in trends in the electricity industry that started in the 1960s, and their impacts are reaching critical significance. Today the 21st century electric grid operator faces a growing uncertainty, complexity, inadequacy, conflict, and the need for flexibility, robustness, real-time situation awareness, probabilistic forecasting and rapid response. The smart grid is a necessary, if not sufficient, investment. I think the public needs to be told about this necessity and helped to understand the real reasons sooner rather than later.