Aneesh Chopra is this nation's first Chief Technology Officer and the Associate Director for Technology in the White House Office of Science and Technology.
He's smart-grid-aware and has spoken in the past about seeking to accelerate the smart grid through innovation enabled by open standards. His office is "extraordinarily concerned about cybersecurity in the grid." He's also demand response-savvy or at least understands the term. According to Chopra, "FERC claims we can lower energy consumption with demand response by 20 percent." That number might be a bit enthusiastic, but at least Chopra has some smart grid spirit.
Recently the office of Health and Human Services announced the creation of bluebuttondata.org, which is working towards giving consumers the option to download their personal health data and share it with trusted health providers and caregivers. The idea was originally launched by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs with the idea that citizens should be able to access their own health information.
In a recent White House blog post, Chopra asks, "Why can’t the same common-sense concept be applied to the energy industry with a 'Green Button'? Consumers should have access to their energy usage information. It should be easily downloadable and in an easy-to-read format offered by their utility or retail energy service provider."
At this week's GridWeek, Chopra "challenged the smart grid ecosystem to deliver on the vision of Green Button and provide customers access to their energy usage information electronically. With this information at their fingertips, consumers would be enabled to make more informed decisions about their energy use and, when coupled with opportunities to take action, empowered to actively manage their energy use."
He added, "Imagine being able to check your air conditioner from your smartphone or having a clothes dryer that saves money for you automatically during critically hot days or simply getting some helpful customized hints on how best to save energy and money in your house or apartment."
CTO Chopra's heart definitely seems to be in the right place. But the flood of energy data that Chopra envisions being tidily delivered to the consumer is not that easily arrived at.
Still, the current-day reality is that scores of companies, both startups and incumbents, have been trying to realize pieces of Chopra's vision for the past decade. GTM Research has teams of analysts following every move of these smart grid firms. Most firms have already introduced products and services that perform what Chopra envisions. There is already a network platform from the likes of Silver Spring Networks. Companies like Itron produce meters, while firms like eMeter manage the data from those meters. Firms like Tendril and many others are trying to bring the control to the consumer that Chopra theorizes. Other firms provide software analytics and security measures. Opower delivers a paper monthly energy usage report to the residential consumer.
Some states, like California, have already taken a bite out of consumer energy privacy issues. But that doesn't stop different groups from continuously weighing in on the matter. A federal policy would likely call forth a firestorm of 'Big Brother' accusations of the government spying on consumers in their home. In some places, small but vocal groups are already making those claims.
The issue of consumer access to data about their energy use is also part of the White House's smart grid policy framework, which at this point is just that, only a framework. It is tough to tell whether Obama will actually have the stomach for a fight about smart grid with Congress (after all, everything is a fight these days), but both parties can agree on "infrastructure" and "energy security" and "personal choice" -- and smart grid can address all of those issues. Framed correctly, smart grid policy -- or at least empowering the consumer with a basic level of information -- is something that could actually get done in Washington.
Chopra's vision is already here or on its way, just not in the exact form he envisions. His staff should brief him on what's actually happening on the ground in the smart grid and look for ways to move faster on national standards, and national regulation or legislation, that would bring his vision to Americans in a more consistent way.