Pilot projects clarify the vision of an intelligent utility system.
Scott M. Gawlicki is a Fortnightly contributing editor and energy industry writer based in West Hartford, Conn. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The smart grid might not be a done deal, but the U.S. electric utility industry seems to have reached a conclusion about it. In short, we have seen the future of the electric system, and it works—intelligently.
In just a few years, the idea of a smart grid has advanced from a pie-in-the-sky idea to an industry bandwagon. Across the country, utilities large and small are touting investments in transmission and distribution (T&D) automation, and calling them part of a smart-grid strategy.
Of course, this investment trend isn’t really new. For a couple of decades, utilities have gradually built more automation into their T&D systems. But the trend has evolved into something more. The smart grid has become a vision for the industry’s future—a vision that both executives and lawmakers have recognized as a politically neutral, forward-looking technology trend. As a result, it’s gaining momentum not just in terms of investment plans, but also in public-policy processes.