Friday, 8 May 2009

Yet more on smart grids

- In an article on earth2tech, Katie Fehrenbacher says that Ray Bell, former Cisco networking executive and founder of Grid Net, a smart meter software company, is backing WiMAX as the means to build out a smart grid. WiMAX is the wireless technology increasingly seen as an alternative option for mobile networks.

Grid Net builds an open-standard, WiMAX-based smart meter. The appeal of the open standards is that third parties will be able to build applications and devices, making the grid more useful and driving down prices. A number of companies already back WiMAX, including Intel, GE, Sprint, Google and some cable firms.

But, as the article points out, many questions remain, such as whether Grid Net will be using national WiMAX networks or partnering with WiMAX network builders for utility-owned networks. In any case, the success of WiMAX is still far from certain, given the competing technologies, particularly the ubiquitous presence of GSM and its derivatives.

- IBM Global Financing, the company's lending and leasing business, is making up to $2bn available to finance IT initiatives tied to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). The company says its consulting and technology business units are already helping enterprises build out their infrastructure around some of the key stimulus areas identified in the Act - Smart Grid, Health Information Technology and Broadband Access.

- Of course smart grids are not to everyone's taste. In the UK the National Grid has long-term contracts with major energy suppliers to supply and maintain gas meters and these contracts include penalties if suppliers replace more than the small number of meters allowed under contract. The net result has been to restrict the rate at which suppliers can replace older meters with cheaper or more advanced, smarter meters from rival competing meter operators.

Ofgem (Office of the Gas and Electricity Markets) the regulator of the gas and electricity industries in Great Britain ruled that the National Grid was in breach of competition law and that decision has been upheld by a Competition Appeal Tribunal, which has fined National Grid £30m (although less than the £41.6m that Ofgem set).

Unfortunately there will always be vested interests that obstruct the progress to a greener world, but hopefully the urgency will prevail (and increasingly questions will be asked at shareholder meetings).

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