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Are We Smart Yet?

Rising expectations in the Dog Days of summer.

Fortnightly Magazine - August 2012

some degree it’s just that. But a key difference this time is that customers and lawmakers have higher expectations about reliability, outages, and customer communications. As a Baltimore Sun editorial stated on July 23, “When local officials attempted to get information about what neighborhoods were still without power days after the storm, the utilities were either unable or unwilling to provide it. That’s not acceptable.”

Expectations have risen in large part because the industry has been promising better performance, through smart grid technologies and customer information systems. As as load becomes more of a dispatchable resource— i.e., as yesterday’s ratepayers become increasingly active participants in a two-way transactional system—reliability expectations will increase even further. And so will the financial consequences for utilities who fall short when the temperature rises.