What solutions can research bring to fruition for smart grid in the next five years? That was the question posed to a panel at the GridWise Global Forum on Thursday afternoon. From increasing situational awareness to bringing on intelligence to reduce theft and increase security, there were various factors the panelists pointed to as the driver of technological research.

When the panel participants gazed into their crystal ball (or maybe just tapped into a research-driven wish list), here is what they saw:

  • "Ubiquitous low-cost grid scale storage in five to seven years," said Mark Johnson, Program Director of ARPA-E.
  • "More consumer-focused research," said Karl Elfstadius, Group VP and Head of Global Smart Grid Development at ABB. "The technical solutions have to support the end user that make it simple to act in a smart way."
  • "Solar will be competitive with traditional power," said Kensuke Tomita, Deputy Director-General of the Commerce and Information Policy Bureau with Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry.
  • "More widespread distribution [of smart grid intelligence]," said Dr. Rahul Tongia, Principal Research Scientist at the Center for Study of Science, Technology, and Policy. "Broadband has taught us it's a moving target."

Johnson from ARPA-E also noted that the air conditioner essentially has not evolved since Willis Carrier invented the technology in 1902. Residential air conditioning alone accounts for five percent of total energy use in the U.S. But the government research agency is looking to change that figure and has assembled a team to bring cooling technology into the 21st century.