By Patrick Cisler

While working on a recent project with companies in the Advanced
Manufacturing industry I couldn’t help but learn about a fast emerging market,
the “Smart Grid”. I was surprised at how many of these maturing companies I was
working with that had many years of experience in other products/services had recently
added Smart Grid capabilities to their product offerings. So what is the Smart Grid?

The Smart Grid is a digitally enabled electrical grid that gathers, distributes, and acts on
information about the behavior of all participants (suppliers and consumers) in order to
improve the efficiency, importance, reliability, economics, and sustainability of
electricity services. I would describe it simply as a better way to measure electrical
energy usage between supplier and consumer. The companies I was studying were
primarily offering the installation of the meters that record and translate the data for both
the utilities and homeowners/businesses. We live in a world where energy usage is
becoming more and more scrutinized, and any opportunity that companies, individuals,
and communities can take advantage of to help reduce energy waste is highly respected
and encouraged. Utility companies and local communities realize that adding smart grid
capabilities adds to the Triple Bottom Line and will ultimately benefit everyone involved.
This is why so many companies are adding it to their product portfolio, because they
recognize the market for these capabilities. This transition of utilities adding these
capabilities reminds me of the transition from typewriters to computers or standard
accounting books to electronic files. In my opinion, it is inevitable that utilities will make
this upgrade, and companies that have been around the block recognize this. They are
offering the product knowing the demand is there.

If you are like me, you look forward to whatever new tool is introduced to the
marketplace that makes our lives easier and more efficient. I am still getting over the
shock of how efficient my life is now that I have an i-Phone, and I first bought mine
4 months ago. Installing and using Smart Grid meters will allow energy usage to be
translated faster allowing utility companies to fix and improve supply as well as let users
know their consumption faster and adjust to that consumption. There is also the added
bonus of not feeling like once or twice a year someone is breaking into my house when it
is only the utility man checking my meter on the side of the house.

So where does the opportunity lie for your community? We know companies in
the Advanced Manufacturing world our moving in this direction. When these companies
offering “smart grid” products receive a contract with a utility company, this usually means
the beginning of a multi-year project for installation and monitoring of energy use. If the
project is large enough, this also creates incentive for the “Smart Grid Company” to open
an office near the utility’s region in order to best serve their client. Find out what utilities
are in your area and whether or not they are looking into adding Smart Grid capabilities.
Whether they are already in the process or not, see if you can entice the supplier to open
an office in your region. Based on the conversations I have had with industry executives,
the opportunity exists. In the meantime, I look forward to sharing in the efficiencies of
the future with you.