On the final morning of the Copenhagen climate talks, as world leaders have but a few hours left to reach some kind of agreement, the smart grid will get a bit of attention. Chris King, the Chief Regulatory Officer of smart meter software company eMeter, plans to speak to about 20 U.S. Congressional delegates that have arrived in Copenhagen in recent days, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Congressman Harry Waxman, and Congressman Edward Markey. The subject: how the U.S. stimulus is boosting the smart grid market and creating U.S. jobs, and how more needs to be done so that countries like China won’t be able to wrestle away a lead in the smart grid market.
King, who arrived in Copenhagen on Thursday night, told me in a phone interview that he will be explaining to the delegates the size of the global smart grid market, which he says is estimated to be worth $500 billion by 2020, and the potential for the U.S. to add 300,000 jobs in the smart grid industry. “Green jobs” should perk up the ears of the Congressional delegates — as Pelosi said during a press conference at the summit on Thursday, “We come here about one word: It’s about jobs. It’s about jobs that are sustainable for the future. New jobs, new technology, new green jobs for a green revolution.”
But like many things at the Copenhagen climate summit (including the sticking points of the $100 billion fund announced by Hillary Clinton on Thursday), King’s talk is also about China. “China could take over the lead for us in the smart grid with their stronger national policies,” said King.
King plans to suggest a set of policy statements to the Congressional delegates that he thinks are needed to help the U.S. maintain its smart grid lead, as he says most of the leading smart grid companies are based in the U.S. or have U.S. operations. Some of King’s suggestions will include finding more ways to provide U.S. utilities with financial incentives for energy efficiency, as well as federal policies like a “loading order,” which is an energy-planning policy that directs how utilities seek new energy resources. Energy-efficiency and demand response initiatives take the highest priority, followed by clean power and then cleaner fossil fuels.
While King’s smart grid presentation is clearly a side event at Copenhagen — the U.S. legislators have no formal power at the summit — I’ve spoken with many in the smart grid industry that are both attending and watching the summit closely, and many see the event as a way to better connect the smart grid industry with the community fighting climate change. The Smart Green Grid Initiative (SGGI), a group that includes heavyweights like General Electric, Whirlpool, Google, AEP and National Grid, has had a presence at the event, and Katherine Hamilton, President of the GridWise Alliance, told me in an email that she thinks a potential Copenhagen agreement is important for the smart grid industry to provide “consistent, clear policy that allows for long-term investment and public-private partnership.”
Update: The president and CEO of smart meter maker Itron Malcolm Unsworth was also in Copenhagen to “reiterate Itron’s position that clear direction on carbon mitigation policy is necessary in order to increase the adoption rates of smart grid technologies,” according to a company release.
The U.S. might have a lot of the leading U.S. smart grid companies, but Denmark actually has built one of the world’s most intelligent grids to be able to manage its large clean power load. So the companies and trade groups attending the Copenhagen conference could also learn a thing or two from the local utility and domestic smart grid firms.
Image courtesy of Martcatnoc’s Flickr Creative Commons.