Palm Springs, Calif. -- Oracle has nearly 2,500 utility customers, many of which have barely made forays into smart grid. But the technology giant has a focus far beyond the opportunities in smart metering, microgrids and electric vehicle integration.

Instead, Oracle is already looking ahead to water, according to Linda Jackman, group vice president of product strategy and management for the Utilities Global Business Unit at Oracle.

"Water will be bigger than power is today," Jackman said during a keynote address at The Networked Grid conference.

Go ahead and replace oil with sun, wind and biofuels, but just try to switch out water with an alternative. It can't be done. Despite our blue planet, less than half of 1 percent of the water on the globe is available fresh water -- and that figure is shrinking all the time. While the gains that can be made in energy efficiency applications are huge, the opportunities that are expected to arise over water wars and shortages in future decades will easily dwarf any business opportunities surrounding clean energy.

Jackman only touched upon Oracle's move into water. The bulk of her address focused on the opportunities in smart grid and the importance of action and not just words in the market. "If we're still here talking about smart grid in 30 years, we're doing something wrong," she said, referring to Mike Montoya's keynote speech yesterday, during which he noted a truly smart grid may not be in place for another 30 years.

Here are some of the challenges and opportunities outlined by Jackman:

  • Nearly 75 percent of utilities in the U.S. are not doing smart grid.
  • There is an expected 700 percent increase in the amount of data that utilities will face as smart grid applications are rolled out.
  • The leading microgrid market is in India and it will continue to grow much faster than the U.S.
  • Portugal is looking to lead the E.U. in electric vehicles. "It is not just about charging stations," Jackman warned.
  • The key to effective smart grid will be the resolution between IT and OT, according to Jackman. The IT team must be brought to the table.
  • Expect microgrid growth to come from universities here in the U.S.
  • Jackman said the killer app of smart grid is going to be consumer companies mining smart grid data to offer automation to customers. Keep an eye out for companies like Best Buy to jump into this market.