[T]he biggest problems with the $1.5 trillion installation of the Smart Grid are not the dicey technological, financial, and regulatory riddles that currently obsess bureaucrats, but chewy philosophical ones.The Smart Grid is rolling out lickety split because all the right interest groups love it: Utilities like the idea of cutting labor costs and being able to manage electricity usage; environmentalists want to integrate renewables onto the grid while stimulating energy efficiency; manufacturers want to sell appliances; regulators are trying to forestall the electrical outages that already cost our economy $119 billion a year; Congress and the DOE wanted to throw money at such an eminently popular, modern, “smart,” concept. This enthusiasm covers up the fact that there is no coherent ideology there at all, never mind a green one. And that’s the problem: Nobody has bothered to explain why the Smart Grid is good for you and me and then turn that into a policy.
The chewier problem with the Smart Grid, as I see it, is that your utility can profit from its knowledge of your habits by selling the electricity you’re not using for a profit. This isn’t Corsi’s jackbooted thugs busting down your doors, it’s more like a boorish busybody sitting around your kitchen eying your plate and constantly saying, “Are you going to eat that?” The idea of my utility, or Google, making a profit from the energetic equivalent of my potato peelings is either the acme of boorishness or the highest attainment of the free market, depending upon how you look at it. And I think how we look at it will depend upon how successful the process is.
“What’s Really Wrong With the Smart Grid,” by Lisa Margonelli, The Atlantic, November 19, 2010
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