It’s Valentine’s Day, and here are a few special wishes I’m sending:

  1.  A Thinking of You to my electric utility, and to all the hardworking employees there who work so diligently to ensure my ongoing reliable and safe delivery of electricity in spite of an aging infrastructure.  I do appreciate the great service you provide.  However, don’t rest on your laurels.  There’s lots of work to be done to regain the hearts and minds of other ratepayers who don’t have such a positive view of you.  You might start with more education about the consumer benefits of smart meters – within your company as well as to your customers.  Not enough ratepayers know that these will help everyone manage their electricity use and help avoid the investment in new peak power purchases or equipment, thereby saving all ratepayers money and reducing CO2 emissions.
  2. A Thanks for Being There greeting to California representative, Jackie Speier, who just introduced HR 654 to protect Internet users’ personal information.  Called the “Do Not Track Me Online Act of 2011”, it delivers an opt-out capability for consumers regarding the collection and sale of their online history.  This bill sets up a “do not track” feature that consumers could invoke to prevent detailed data gathering about search history.  According to a recent USA Today poll, 70% of Facebook members and 52% of Google users are either “very concerned” or “somewhat” concerned about their privacy, so, if passed, this bill would enable everyone to get a small measure of protection for some online activity.  However, the bill does not address broader privacy issues, and it does not address whether or not energy use data is a form of online data.  (As I mentioned in previous blogs, Smart Grid leaders need to clearly articulate what types of information is collected by smart meters and/or gathered by Home Energy Management System (HEMS) solutions in order to avoid consumer concerns about their energy use privacy.  So far, there’s little evidence that lawmakers or regulators are considering this new type of data in their development of online data legislation.)
  3. A You’re Special sentiment to all the auto manufacturers introducing electric vehicles (EVs) to the American market.  The latest turmoils in the Middle East should serve as sobering reminders of the incredible risks the national and world economies face because of dependencies on oil.  Further amplification of that need to disentangle our economy from oil comes from today’s headlines about gas prices topping $4 a gallon this year.  There’s no amount of drilling that gets around the fact that more countries like the fast-developing economies of China and India are competing for the remaining supplies of petroleum, and these will go to the highest bidders.  Yes, we need more affordable models and rapid build-out of a charging infrastructure, but these are surmountable problems that create local jobs.  Did Henry Ford stop building cars because there were more stables than gas stations when he started his company?
  4. A Don’t Stop message to the growing numbers of application developers that are entering the Smart Grid sector.  While much initial attention has been given to the HEMS market, developers should keep in mind that the entire electrical infrastructure needs upgrading, and much of it will be done with software.  From sophisticated communications capabilities to distributed intelligence for complex event processing to knowledge retention and training applications, the need for software is growing, and existing vendors, many of whom have hardware expertise, won’t be able to develop and support quality software on their own.