Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Smart grid proponents have some explaining to do

We are doing a new broadband conference October 13, after an FTTH conference (September 2009) and a mobile broadband conference (June 2010). The program isn't finalised yet, but one of the thing to look forward to is smart grid and smart metering. Hopefully somebody will teach us the value of these things, because I haven't been convinced yet. In fact, I am inclined to be an opponent, as I will explain here. Since I am probably not alone erring, I hope an expert speaker will address these points:

1. Burning oil (or corn) has three issues:
a. CO2 is released, which probably causes the greenhouse effect and as a consequence forces rapid climate change upon us.
b. Oil is scarce. Burning it will only make matters worse, driving up prices and making us ever more dependent on undemocratic countries for our oil supply. Burning corn or the like is just a stupid idea, not worth elaborating on.
c. Oil is scarce, even at times (such as in the middle of the night) when there is a temporary oversupply.

2. It is in our nature to try and drive up the efficiency of oil burning and usage. People are inventing smart grids, hybrid cars and are teaching us to unplug unused battery chargers. In itself, there is nothing wrong with increasing efficiency, but at the same time, three new issues arise:
a. Focus remains on burning oil, instead of developing new and truly green sources.
b. The efficiency efforts themselves require a lot of energy and oil burning.
c. It is naive to think that enabling consumers to monitor their usage will make them more frugal or efficient. Human nature doesn't work that way.

When it comes to business decisions, it is wise to sweat your assets and squeeze every penny out of them (as in copper networks). Oil is another matter however and we need to switch over to new sources sooner rather than later. It looks like we need to stop thinking in terms of increasing efficiency. We should be more ambitious and develop new sources that provide us with an abundance of energy. Energy shouldn't be scarce any more than bandwidth.

I can't wait for the expert to address these issues.