Hype, hysteria, and strategic planning.
Steven Andersen is a Fortnightly contributing editor based in New York. Portions of this article were contributed by Michael T. Burr, editor-in-chief.
Smart grid backers might do well to heed the words of George Orwell, himself no stranger to fantastic visions. Of Orwell’s many observations was this one, on the mercurial nature of slang and cursing: “The strange thing is that when a word is established as a swear word, it seems to lose its original meaning. It loses the thing that made it into a swear word.”
But though “smart grid” might not yet qualify as a curse—not in most circles anyway—lately the term has come down in the world, its meaning undermined by ubiquity. Once a phrase becomes a buzzword, its connotations begin to bob and swirl in the eddies of public imagination. And over the last couple of years, “smart grid” has been through a veritable spin cycle.
“People are getting tired of the word in all its different parts and pieces, because it’s been so overused. It’s not as bad as ‘sustainability’ yet, but it’s getting there,” says Chris Hickman, president of Innovari Energy and former PNM executive. “The very unfortunate part is that the expectations have been completely screwed up.”