Thursday, March 3, 2011

Will Smart Grid need a Carterfone decision?

Anybody remember the days before the AT&T breakup?

How about the days (before that) when you had to lease a special "protective device" from MaBell if you were going to hook up something?  Or the time before that when you just plain couldn't get anything but Ma Bell equipment?

Just a bit over 42 years ago, the FCC told the phone companies that they couldn't have absolute control of what got hooked to their network, and set standards for what could be hooked to the phone network.  While it still took a while to bear fruit, that was the beginning of the process that got us to the anywhere / anytime connectivity that we have generally gotten used to.

While some very talented people have been working hard at interoperability, I hear a lot of talk (and have read a few use cases) that indicate that at least some parties think that if the utility doesn't exercise control over the devices on the customer side of the meter, there is a threat to the reliability of the grid.

Think about that for just a hot second.  The existing grid doesn't need that kind of control of end-user devices, so why should a more intelligent and adaptable grid need it?

Now, I can see an argument for direct control of customer owned generation and storage, perhaps.  I can also see ways that it seems to me the same job could be done without it, and I suspect that if we don't design in that kind of flexibility now, it will be required of the grid later, and require some expen$ive re-engineering.

I invite comment and thought...

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