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From the Ambassador's Desk

Getting Smart about the Grid

3 April 2010
From left to right: Rod Hirsch, Director of the Oakland Export Assistance Center; Hon. Jeff Bleich, U.S. Ambassador to Australia; Bernard Morneau, President of OSIsoft LLC

From left to right: Rod Hirsch, Director of the Oakland Export Assistance Center; Hon. Jeff Bleich, U.S. Ambassador to Australia; Bernard Morneau, President of OSIsoft LLC

While most of the public and some political leaders still don’t understand the term “smart grid,” it was heartening to see that industry gets it. I had the chance to see this in person on April 26 at a smart-grid event in San Francisco. As a nation and as a world we have to fundamentally change the way we create, store, transmit and use energy.

If we don’t, we will have an economy that depends on diminishing resources that are destroying our environment, we will lose a competitive advantage to other nations, we’ll miss the next great job boom, we will be beholden to nations that may not share our interests, and we may do irreversible damage to our planet.

If we do make some necessary changes, however, we will be able to enhance our standard of living, improve our economy, eliminate waste and pollution, and leave a better planet to our children. It is that simple. Judging by the event I took part in, people with the visions to see this are taking this challenge head on. It is that simple.

One element is building a smart grid. Right now, the U.S. loses ten times as much productivity to power outages as Japan, because we have an aging, inefficient infrastructure for storing and transmitting energy. The U.S. is dealing with this issue by investing in a new smart grid that will take advantage of sophisticated meters, sensors, networks and control systems to get the energy in the right places at the right time and let consumers know in real time how much energy they are using. The recovery act invested $4.5 billion in stimulus for smart grid development and industry is matching that.

Australia presents an opportunity to build and model smart grid technologies. The Australian federal government has allocated $90 M for a pilot program, and many U.S. businesses have technologies that would be help Australia achieve its goals of reducing per capita energy use. Many of the state governments are funding or providing other incentives for homeowners and utilities to invest in smart grid technology. Australia is particularly well-positioned to move ahead with this technology, as it has a sophisticated energy infrastructure and commercial energy market. Australians use energy in similar ways, they have the means to make necessary forms, and they have a political will to be on the forefront of technology. I look forward to seeing American businesses here in Australia, and to seeing their know-how put to use to strengthen both of our countries and make this a cleaner more sustainable world.

From the Ambassador's Desk

  • From the Ambassador's Desk