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Smart Grid in America and Europe (Part II)

Past accomplishments and future plans.

Fortnightly Magazine - February 2011

grid. If they do not commit to long term development of the electric industry labor force, then the public might not realize all the benefits of smart grid improvements.

Setting Examples

This examination of smart grid developments in the E.U. and the U.S. is only the beginning of many future evaluations because smart grid deployment is still a relatively new phenomenon in an industry where some technology has remained largely unchanged for more than 50 years. When other industries were going through the digital revolution, the electric grid remained mostly mechanical. Now the electric grid is becoming part of the digital age. Despite similar understandings of the definition of the smart grid, the different approaches used by the E.U. and the U.S. have resulted in different levels of focus on similar issues. Although both governments are engaged in large numbers of smart meter installments, the E.U. has done more research on distributed generation and microgrids and the U.S. has created more legislation, although far short of being a comprehensive framework.

Both the E.U. and the U.S. have failed to address three important policy areas. Public education and outreach, cost recovery, and labor shortage in the electric industry are policy components that are important to the ultimate success of the smart grid. 

Ultimately we do not know what the smart grid will look like, but the excitement over its development is well justified given our hopes for its ability to deliver an endless array of benefits. We do know the E.U. and the U.S. will provide valuable examples for the rest of the world. As the smart grid matures, the need to study how the E.U. and the U.S. approach its obstacles will continue.



1. McKinsey & Co., McKinsey on Smart Grid (2010) [hereinafter McKinsey Report ], at 13.

2. Research Reports Int’l, The Development of Smart Grids in Europe 23–35 (2009).

3. McKinsey Report , supra note at 13-14 (stating that Germany and Netherlands do not have mandated rollouts but they are active with pilot projects); Research Reports Int’l, supra note 2, at 23–35.

4. Research Reports Int’l, supra note 2, at 23–35; Theo Frei, “Smart Grid Comes Costly for Households in Germany,” Int’l Bus. Times , Aug. 15, 2010.

5. Berg Insight, Smart Metering in Western Europe 1 (2010), available at

6. U.S. Dep’t of Energy, U.S. Smart Grid Report (2009) [hereinafter U.S. Smart Grid Report ], at 14.

7. Craig Johnston, OG&E, OG&E Positive Energy Smart Grid: EEI Strategic Issues Conference 25 (2010).

8. “Oklahoma Utility Implementing Smart Metering Network with Stimulus Funds,” Transmission & Distribution World , June 24, 2010.

9. “ComEd Seeks Federal Funding to Build Smart Grid,” Transmission & Distribution World , Aug. 5, 2009.

10. Smart Grid Vermont, Vt. Energy Investment Corp. News , Dec. 01, 2009.

11. Hanah Cho, “BGE Wins ‘Smart Meter’ Approval but Must Bill Customers after It’s Built,” Aug. 16, 2010, Balt. Sun .

12. Early estimates by the DOE predicted that 52 million meters would be installed by 2012. U.S. Smart Grid Report , supra note 6,