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IBM: Welcome to Smart Grid Island

maltaimagesmallThe island nation of Malta will soon be able to call itself the first smart grid island (reality TV show anyone?) IBM (s ibm) is planning to build the first national smart grid network on Malta complete with 250,000 smart meters that will enable the national utilities and their customers to better manage energy and water use. The deal is for 70 million euro ($90 million) and the network is supposed to be completed by 2012.

OK, so Malta is tiny, with less than 400,000 people — in comparison PG&E (s pcg) is rolling out millions of smart meters to its customers in Northern California. But the Maltese network, like the Smart Grid city in Boulder, Colo., could provide valuable information about how an entire community responds to these new tools.

Malta’s smart grid network will allow the national utilities — Enemalta Corp. and Water Services Corp. — to conduct remote monitoring, meter reading and real-time management of the network based on IT. Real-time monitoring and smart meters can deliver pricing based on time of day, enabling the utility to better manage energy consumption and customers to cut their electrical bills. Malta residents will also be able to track their energy use online and see how to curb consumption habits.

IBM has spent the past couple of years developing a variety of software to make the power grid smarter. In 2007 IBM created the Intelligent Utility Network Coalition, which includes a group of utilities that are interested in bringing computing to the electricity network. For startups, IBM can be a very important partner, as it can connect meter makers, energy management firms, and wireless sensor distributors with utilities.

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