Al Gore: The Smart Grid Is Key

In a long speech on a variety of greentech subjects — ranging from renewable energy technology to prospects for the upcoming climate talks in Copenhagen to the U.S. Senate’s slow pace on the climate bill  — former Vice President and current Kleiner Perkins partner Al Gore singled out the smart grid as a key initiative that will help the U.S. transition off of foreign oil, create jobs and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Gore made the comments at the GreenBeat conference, which is focused on the smart grid industry. Kleiner Perkins, it should be said, has invested in smart grid companies including Silver Spring Networks. So Gore had a variety of reasons to champion the smart grid today.

Gore highlighted three benefits that the smart grid will provide: a connection to link renewable assets to areas that need it, a way to empower consumers, and a way to drive technology innovation in much the same way the Internet has done. When comparing the Internet to the smart grid Gore said, “the analogy is almost exact.” The energy industry is moving toward a distributed model (solar rooftops and devices at endpoints), from a highly centralized one now. Eventually, Gore predicted the power grid will look more like the distributed model of the Internet.

Arguably, said Gore, the most important effects of the smart grid buildout will be the potential benefits for consumers, who will finally become aware of how much energy they are using and find new options for reducing energy consumption. “Most people are simply not aware of ways to reduce consumption,” he said. Andy Tang, senior director of PG&E (s PCG) Smart Energy Web expressed a similar sentiment on the panel prior to Gore’s speech concerning just how big the change in mentality about energy consumption will be. Tang said many even in the utility industry are just beginning to grasp the large effect that a digital grid will have on consumers.

Image courtesy of World Economic Forum flickr Creative Commons (not from GreenBeat)