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Today I had the privilege to visit Southern Company, hosting a planning meeting for GridComForum East. It is apparent that Southern is technologically gearing up to be on par with PG+E of California – let’s see how we can help.

Having (again here) seen many companies providing services to utilities in order to better serve commercial customers, in form of consulting, time based billing, optimizing reactive power and the like, I’m close to a conclusion that this is the wrong way.

In telecommunications, business connections used to be expensive and unreliable (Frame Relay, ATM, ISDN, X.25, fractional E1/T1 etc). It was only after the consumer market exploded (ADSL, DOCSIS Cable, city wide WLANs etc) that speed and reliability of all telecom services started to improve – quite radically. Having run a Network Operations Center, I remember well that a polite call from a large enterprise customer was far less intimidating than 500 calls from angry consumers, with a prospect of being quoted in headline news in the next day’s paper.

So my postulate is that providing consumers with real time measurements and control options for their energy usage first, utilities could bootstrap the Smart Grid world much faster than what is happening now. It would also make rate cases easier in Public Utility Commissions and local governments when taxpayers could see the benefits first hand.

//Pasi

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