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Keeping the Lights on: Writing the Future History of the Grid

William Ford Gibson, an author of science fiction who coined the term “cyberspace,” once said:  “The future is already here, it’s just not evenly distributed.” In other words, the future is happening, it’s just faster in some places and slower in others.

Gibson very well might have been talking about our electric grid, which is at varying stages of modernization throughout the world.  While we anticipate that $4 trillion dollars will be invested in global smart grid transformation projects over the next twenty years, how do we ensure scalability, reliability and security across the board?  How do we make sure that the electric grid for the 21st century is the platform for sustainability and innovation that many of us hope it can be?

At Cisco, our goal is to help utility customers see into the future and help them succeed in making smart grid a reality.  To do so, we believe three areas need to be addressed:  policy, technology and economics.  For example, we need policies in place that promote investment in smart grid as well as energy independence and infrastructure security and reliability.  The integration of information technology (IT) with energy technology (ET) will create new business models and greater opportunity for energy management, reducing our environmental impact.  And economics will also be a critical factor in making the right policy and technology choices, as well as articulating the broader societal value of a smart grid.

Taken in its entirety, it has become clear to Cisco that the transformation of how we deliver and consume energy, and the creation of a new value from electricity, is going to depend on these three key foundational elements whose interdependence we call “Gridonomics.”

No one of these hurdles can be successfully realized without engagement of the others.  Public-private partnerships and dialogue are needed if we are to realize connected energy superstructure for the 21st century and beyond.   To accelerate the conversation, Cisco will partner with The Economist to explore these concepts and discuss the future history of the grid at a special event on September 27th in San Jose.  Stay tuned for details.

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  1. How will the dependency on the grid affect societies overall? As we get more dependent and invest in the smart grid we might be paving the way, as Marshall McCluhan noted, for a new economy that pits the old vs. the new – a cultural clash leading to new kinds of conflicts. Interested in seeing what the Economist will deliver on this topic.

  2. impatiently awaiting for event news… 😉