The movement toward smart grids seems inevitable. So it came as a bit of a surprise this week when a high-profile smart grid project seemed to hit a significant hurdle. According to BusinessWeek/Bloomberg, Hawaii regulators rejected plans for smart grid project over concerns about the value the investment would provide to consumers.
Hawaiian Electric Co., the state’s primary utility, had envisioned a $115 million smart grid project reaching 451,000 locations on Oahu, Maui and the Big Island. But the utility’s proposal fell apart when the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission on Monday denied a request for expanded testing of the technology on Oahu.
“Our office was concerned that the investment would be made but ratepayers wouldn’t see the benefits,” said Dean Nishina, executive director for the state Division of Consumer Advocacy.
Connected Planet’s Take, Rich Karpinski:
It had to happen. Like any project ultimately requiring regulatory approval — and smart grids will be watched by both state telecom and energy regulators, not to mention lobbyists and consumer protection groups — there’s going to be some delays in the smart grid world. Hawaiian Electric claims this isn’t a big setback, just a little caution-setting.
But what’s most interesting is the state’s desire to make sure that investment in smart grid technology will pay off not just for utilities, but for consumers as well. For instance, Hawaiian environmental groups are apparently pushing for rooftop solar panels, a more green approach, than simply better managing supply and demand via a network-enabled smart grid.
What this probably means is that the energy and telecom industries need to start what will probably amount to a major public relations push to explain the value behind the smart grid (not to mention to explain what the heck a smart grid is in the first place). Why are they necessary? Are they safe? How much will they cost? And how will they benefit consumers and businesses?
Let the battle for the hearts and minds of potential smart grid users begin!