Finland has long been a leader with smart meters and smart grids. It is no surprise then the small Scandinavian country has big plans for its smart power infrastructure: the melding of smart grids, cloud computing and social networks.

The result could be a collection of virtual micro grids -- and more grassroots power management.
Finland's eagerness to deploy a modern energy infrastructure has much to do with the country's harsh winters. Energy use per capita is among the highest in the world and domestic resources are limited largely to hydropower.

The desire to give consumers more control over their energy use led the country to require that all homes have smart meters by 2013 -- among the most ambitious deployment targets in the world. About half of Finland's 5.3 million people have smart meters today.

With the completion of the rollout, several new innovative services will become available, including the freedom for citizens to create virtual micro grids to share and manage power.

If a friend has solar panels and produces excess power, he or she can share that power with neighbors, says Seppo Yrjola, principal innovator at Nokia Siemens Networks, which is helping with the rollout.

"That's really a virtual power plant," Yrjola said at the Nordic Green II conference. "I think the venture capitalists are very excited" about the investment opportunities.

Finland's vision goes where few other countries dare tread. Yrjola says the goal is to enable people to create micro grids much as they form groups of friends on social networking sites. In that sense, cloud computing, social networks and smart grids will intersect in 2013 or 2014 after the smart meters and accompanying network infrastructure are installed.

The notion is that villages, districts and communities will be able to form micro grids and negotiate for cheaper power. No one yet knows exactly how the system will be used, says Yrjola.

The completion of the rollout should enable other services, as well. Renewables, such as solar, will more easily plug into the grid and information on real-time pricing will be available. Consumers also will be given more control over their home appliances.

"We are building the infrastructure," he says. It is up to consumers to decide how to use it.

Link to Nokia Siemens Networks