In late March, Popular Mechanics published an article titled "Forget Smart Grid, We Need Smart Spending (On the Grid)." The author raised an interesting point: The term "Smart Grid" is a poorly defined buzzword. It's being bandied about by so many people with so many goals and perspectives that it's bound to confuse most Americans. Even experts are confused — one top Carnegie Mellon expert is quoted as saying,
"There are smart grid issues that are grid management issues. And then there's smart metering, which is taking information, and sending it back to the utilities. Inevitably, that gets referred to as smart grid technology, which is not helpful."
Well, it's helpful to us — even if smart meters are not a consumer-oriented tool, we view them as part of the Smart Grid. Which makes it all the more clear that there is a need for a common language for the Smart Grid. NEMA's making its contribution on this front: last year we developed a white paper that lays a foundation for such a common language, including classifying the levels of intelligence for each functional element or system. Our members will be working with other stakeholders this year to further this goal.
The public needs to gain a better understanding of what the Smart Grid entails, and those who are designing the Smart Grid (NEMA included) need to more effectively define the terms. Not an easy undertaking in a society in which people no longer understand how a flip of a switch provides light for our homes. But at least we've got their attention.