OK, oil just hit another high today, and it's getting easier and easier to cash $100 bills at my local gas station. They used to give me trouble for changing a $50. Harry does a much better job of blogging about energy sources than me (because IT is my thing not corn).
But I'm keyed into various management technologies and smart grid developments, so this piqued my interest.
Here's the set-up: Typically, we've been taught to think that there are four major sources: coal, nuclear, oil and all the alternative energy types like solar, wind and water. But Silver Spring Networks President and CEO Scott Lang is hoping that the "fifth fuel" source—the ability for utilities to better manage supply and demand—will provide the quickest relief.
I know it sounds sort of hokie or contrived, but the fact is many of the alternative energy sources that we're hoping so much from in the future will take months if not years to play out. The simplest way for us to begin balancing the existing energy supply (and prices in the process) is to invest in smart grid technology, according to Lang. And, yes, that's what his company does, so he is not disinterested.
Silver Spring's technology is a network card for electric, gas and water meters, and even thermostats. The card transmits usage information back to the utility company and vice versa. There are many companies testing this sort of technology, certainly, but what's really interesting about Silver Spring is that they actually have 100,000 customers online as of this month through Florida Power & Light, according to Lang. By 2009, the utility will be using Silver Spring's technology with roughly 5 million customers. Or at least that is the plan.
I'm not saying smart grid projects should preclude research on better alternatives to oil, but regardless of what fuel source we're using 10 or 15 or 20 years from now, all of our utilities must be managed more intelligently. This is just the first step.