Thursday, September 8, 2011

Subcommittee on Technology and Innovation Hearings

I've been listening to a House Subcommittee on Technology and Innovation Hearing where the topic is stated as "Empowering Consumers and Promoting Innovation through the Smart Grid."

A catchy title, but not really what the hearing is about. According to the Hearing Charter, the hearing is supposed to "...examine the status of efforts to develop open standards for smart grid technologies and drive innovation within smart grid development. This hearing will provide the Subcommittee with an update on current standards development accomplishments, as well as the actions needed to empower and protect consumer interests while promoting innovation through the growth of the smart grid.

I say supposed to, because very few of the questions I heard were about open standards, promoting innovation or empowering customers. (In the interest of fairness, I missed some of the beginning.) Most of the questions seemed to be about how much money has been spent by NIST, and how many jobs it will generate. I get the importance of being budget concious in tough economic times, but that money's already been spent. Nothing that Congress can do now will change whether that money was well or poorly spent, particularly since Congress (not NIST) dictated the mad rush to spend most of that money through the ARRA requirements.

The answers the witnesses gave were good, but the questions were wrong, and so were some of the witnesses, I'm afraid. Nothing against any of the witnesses, they're all very bright people, but they aren't the people you need to talk to, if you want to learn about innovation, or either empowering or protecting customers.

Okay, maybe I overstated it. Rik Drummond and John Caskey come close, because John is fairly directly involved on behalf of NEMA, and Rik is a pretty keen observer. Donna Nelson can tell you about what worked in Texas. "Lessons learned" in Texas may not always apply elsewhere, because Texas's grid is pretty unique.

In any case, if you want to talk about any of those topics, beating George Arnold up about the last 3 years' budget figures certainly isn't going to get you there.

If you really want to learn what's going on with standards development, innovation, or empowering consumers, or protecting consumers, talk to the people who are doing the work on standards, the people who are developing innovative products around those standards, and the people who are working on architectures for those products to plug into.

So, Representative Quayle, if you and your committee members want to see what is going on with Smart Grid, come to an industry conference, register like anybody else, and ask what people are working on. Talk to the vendors, talk to the consultants (like me ), talk to the engineers. You'll be amazed at the insightful, creative problem solving that's being done by people who have staked their personal futures on making everyone's future better.

Or, if you just want an opportunity to beat your favourite drum, feel free to spend money having hearings like this one. The rest of us will be busy making this stuff happen (and passing George Arnold a couple of aspirin.)

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