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Thursday, February 12, 2009

Glasgow Gets Smart Grid First

Of late it has been impossible to avoid the term "smart grid." If you watched to Super Bowl, you saw this commercial from GE which features the scarecrow from The Wizard of Oz touting the benefits of the smart grid. Additionally, over the las few days nearly every print and on-line publication has had articles like this one about Google's plans relative to managing your electric power consumption.

The Google article should be particularly interesting to us in Glasgow, because we have been promoting this very idea for nearly twenty years. While much of the smart grid discussion revolves around "vaporware" (hardware that is promoted as if you could just buy it off the shelf while, in reality, it does not actually exist), Glasgow's combination of a robust broadband network, a growing number of internet-based electric meters, a growing ZigBee wireless mesh network, and our municipally owned electric power network combine to make up the major components of the smart grid a reality here in Glasgow.

About all that we still need before we can actually start offering smart grid products and services to our customers in Glasgow is a good internet addressable thermostat, a good internet addressable water heater switch, and some very complicated software to make all of these devices work in concert to lower the electric power demand of each individual home. We are not only working on finding these necessary parts, we are also hoping to establish Glasgow as the center of the smart grid world and, hopefully, even convince manufacturers of these devices to come to Glasgow, hire local people, and build the devices in the same community that stepped forward to help develop the technology so many years ago. It is a big dream for sure, but, well, building a municipally owned broadband network was a similarly big dream back in 1988 . . . and we made that one come true!

Want to know how to make your home ready to take advantage of these new devices and the corresponding savings? Well, if your water heater fails over the next few months, you ought to replace it with a high efficiency ELECTRIC water heater. If you are looking to upgrade you heating and air conditioning system, talk to a local HVAC contractor about replacing your old unit with a modern high SEER heat pump. The smart grid is designed to control electric appliances and offer amazing incentives for allowing them to be controlled by the utility. So long as your major appliances are fired by natural gas, you will not be able to participate in the brave new smart grid world.

Once you have the right combination of electric appliances, we hope to be contacting you soon to seek your participation in one of the most important scientific explorations ever. We will be seeking to learn how far customers will be willing to allow the utility to control the temperature of their home and their hot water. At the same time, we will be determining if our long-held theory is correct; we believe that it is possible to use broadband control of major home appliances to provide new electric power generation capacity without burning one additional chunk of coal or building a new nuclear power plant. We think new capacity can be gained by teaching our appliances to use less energy! I hope you will join us in this brave experiment.