Earth Day.  Aday designed to remind us and rest of the global community of the climatecrisis.  Whether you spent the day planting a tree, walking to work orremembering to throw your trash into the recycle bin, I can’t help but think,what’s going on during the other 364 days?  Although green innovationis beginning to catch on, the technology industry has barely scratched thesurface in discovering new ways to increase energy efficiency and reduce carbonfootprints.  

Personally, beyondEarth Day, I am reminded of going green each time I open my monthly utilitybill.  How much it is going to be this month and how much energy did Iwaste?  I’m prompted to consider what is going on behind the scenes in thesmartgrid market and role the technology industry.  What’s going onnow? And what’s in store for the future?

Did you know thatutility companies are still using the same meters and energy distributiontechnology from 100 years ago?  At a recent Churchill Club event Smart Grid:What’s Next?, the panel noted that the market grid as a wholereaches a trillion dollars each year, yet it is difficult to allocate the moneytowards developing smart grid technologies.  Companies are facing avariety of hurdles including concerns in reliability, efficiency and customeracceptance.

Although million ofAmericans, like myself, open their utility bills each month, 65 percent ofconsumers don’t know what a smart grid is, according to the events’ moderator, KatieFehrenbacher.  The average consumer spends $2,000 onenergy every year and doesn’t know the smart grid could save them money andincrease ways to manage their usage.

A member of thepanel, Elisabeth Brinton, the chief business and public affairs officer for Sacramento MunicipalUtilities District, offered the district’s perspective on the roleof smart grid technology.  The group is accelerating plans to partner withemerging technologies that offer reliability and efficiency.  If ablackout occurs as a result of a utility misstep, the company receives a $1 billion-a-dayfine, which also creates a matter of national security.  The district’sgoal is to leverage technology for operational efficiency across multipleareas: remote meter reading, customer usage management, innovative transmissionand delivery and real-time decision making.

While tech isclearly the new green, the utility industry is in need of a dramatic makeoverto keep up.  As green technologies emerge in the mainstream market, energyusage in the home skyrockets.  The panel noted the urgency for smart gridtechnologies highlighting that an electric vehicle charging at a consumer’shome is equivalent to the entire household consumption and the current system cannotsupport widespread usage.  

Emerging smart gridtechnologies are on their way to making every day Earth Day.  Now not onlythe car you drive, the recycling you separate, the reusable products you buy,but also the energy you will consume can be green.  Who knew your energybill could save you green?  With these possibilities, what does the futurehold?

— Kali Fry