“Green energy’’ was very notable in the 2009 recovery act of president Obama’s administration. The stimulus package projected the determination of the government to invest a tremendous amount of budget on sustainable and renewable energy, achieving higher rates of efficiency in energy production and exploitation . Among all items of this package, the decision to dedicate billions of dollars to ”smart grids” and modernization of electric power infrastructure has been very debatable. The term smart grid refers to the use of intelligent techniques to record, collect and monitor the amount of power consumption by the users of the power grid in real time, in order to make the generation and distribution of high voltage electricity more efficient .
A key component to such a smart system, in addition to an integrated network of wireless sensors and data collection, is the participation of consumers; They would store excessive power in their electric cars (and thus avoid waste of energy when production is higher than demand) or would reinforce the network through sustainable sources (such as solar rooftops, or wind turbines). Consequently, as the department of energy reflects the President’s goal, by the year 2035,80% of the overall generated electricity would be from clean sources rather than fossil fuels . The smart grid thus also motivates renewable energy production, and creates a very wide-spread market for wind and solar energy technologies (i.e. potentially every household would be a customer).
Despite the strong support of the government, the smart grid project has not been exempt from criticism. There are serious objections to possible drawbacks and harms (currently latent due to fans propaganda or lack of clarity in several technical and policy based issues related to smart grids) that such giant modernization can cause. Some of these potential drawbacks are security issues (both at a privacy level and threatening major power supplies in general), lack of clarity in the policies and standards, overpriced and unfair energy prices, major health and environmental concerns as a result of excessive wireless and electromagnetic exposure, and so on . That these objections are valid or not is experts call, or the judgment of time at this point. The point I want to make here is that perhaps there has been too much rush in the whole process. In many aspects smart grid is thought to be similar to internet. But there is major difference in the realizations of these two projects and their endorsement by government. The United States government’s support was instrumental in the development of World Wide Web as well. However, back in 1960’s, when the initial projects on data networks were initialized, the dreams were not as ambitious as a global internet. The milestone for internet was the ARPANET project which was contracted for only $1 million in the late 1960s . The complete internet technology was developed (even conceptually) within the next two decades, and after many other pieces of networking and computer technology were invented (such as unix systems, Email systems, TCP/IP, DNS, etc). In addition, the funding and development was not completely monopolized by the US government (there were similar networks and advances in Europe as well, and the research and development was very distributed in the US). In contrast, the statistics on the smart grid funds are quiet different. The Energy-Independence and Security Act of 2007 dedicated $400 million to smart grid projects for the years of 2008-2012 alone, and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 set aside $11 billion to construct a large scale smart grid . Major tech companies such as GE, Cisco, Siemens and IBM and several start-ups have already received millions of dollars of governmental aids to build smart grid utilities and capabilities . This raises another criticism: If the smart grid does not realize expectations or face unforeseen failures, maintenance costs, renewals or costly updates (keep in mind that to reach its full capacity it might take to 2035 or later) the losses would be tremendous. Even the problems with internet have not been fully resolved yet. Given these considerations, would it not have been better if the project was contracted out in smaller phases, and in a less centralized fashion?
 Nathan S. Newman, “Net Loss: Government, Technology and the Political Economy of Community in the Age of the Internet”, Ph.D. Sociology, University of California, Berkeley 1998