Archive for November, 2009

Energy and Climate Event, Nov. 24

Thursday, November 19th, 2009

An event at the National Academy of Sciences FYI.


Time for Change: Reframing the Conversation on Energy and Climate

A discussion on the occasion of the release of the Innovations journal special issue on energy & climate

Event Details
Date: Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Time: 1:00 – 6:45PM (Event: 1-5:40PM; Reception: 5:45-6:45PM)
Place: The National Academy of Sciences, 21st and Constitution Avenue, Washington, DC

Event Description
The goal of this meeting is to contribute to reframing the conversation on energy and climate by illuminating opportunities inherent in the transition away from carbon intensity. The meeting will focus on how technologies already in use can be combined with common-sense policies and 21st century modes of organization to create jobs, advance innovation, and enhance international cooperation. The meeting will take place at the National Academy of Sciences and will engage leaders from business, government, and academia in a discussion of the societal possibilities inherent in the in the creation of climate solutions. The event is timed to take place two weeks before the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, and coincides with the release of the Innovations journal special issue on energy & climate titled “Energy for Change.” Led by the Science Adviser to the President of the United States, John Holdren, and informed by a year-long project on energy & climate at the National Academy of Sciences, the meeting will be organized into a set of forward-looking conversations respectively emphasizing opportunities for business, for the United States, and for the global community of nations.

Featured speakers include:

  • John Holdren, Science Adviser to the President of the United States and perviously Director of the Belfer Center’s Science, Technology, and Public Policy Program
  • Thomas Schelling, 2005 recipient of the Nobel Prize in economics
  • Bill Drayton, Founder and CEO of Ashoka, Innovators for the Public
  • Richard Meserve, President of the Carnegie Institution
  • Iqbal Quadir, Founder and Director of MIT’s Legatum Center for Development and Entrepreneurship

New Washington, DC Organization

Tuesday, November 17th, 2009

Worth keeping an eye on: They released their “Electrification Roadmap” yesterday. I do not have time to read it, but maybe you do.


Smart Grid and Broadband Over Powerline

Thursday, November 12th, 2009

On November 9, 2009, the Brookings Institution held an event titled “Improving Broadband Innovation and Investment.”  A transcript as well as a video of the event may be found at

The event is described on the Brookings website as follows:

Broadband and wireless technologies are key elements of our nation’s economic, social and civic development. With the Federal Communications Commission’s stated goals of bringing broadband access to all Americans, it is crucial to determine how to be innovative when investing in broadband infrastructure. How will infrastructure development be funded? What is the proper mix of financial resources? How can we identify emerging technologies that will serve citizens and businesses?

The Participants were:


Darrell M. West, Vice President and Director, Governance Studies

Featured Panelists

John Horrigan, Consumer Research Director, Omnibus Broadband Initiative

Federal Communications Commission

Robert Shapiro, Senior Policy Fellow

Georgetown Center for Business and Public Policy

Thomas Z. Freedman, President, Freedman Consulting

Author of A Kindle in Every Backpack: A Proposal for eTextbooks in American Schools

During the Q & A session I asked why broadband over powerline (BPL) had dropped off the map even though it is a byproduct of the smart grid (that everybody including some of the panelists say we need and it would provide competition in the broadband market. Only Mr. Horrigan of the FCC attempted to answer and he emphasized that he could only repeat what he had heard, since it is not within his area of study or expertise.  His answer was that he had heard it was a technical problem due to the current architecture of the electrical grid.

Let me emphasize that this is not meant to be an attack on Mr. Horrigan or anybody else on that particular panel.  The Smart Grid concept covers a lot of territory and it is quite difficult to pin it down.  People cannot be experts on every subject about which someone might question them.  But I am rather puzzled about why BPL has failed to gain traction in the US.

The electric power industry was instrumental in wrestling control of the telecommunications industry from Ma Bell in the 1960s by providing their own internal communications system to their workers using microwave towers on electric rights-of-way.  As I recall, they successfully argued before the regulators that electric service was essential and power utilities should not be at the mercy of the phone company to handle outages and power emergencies.

As best as I can understand, the smart grid will operate by broadband communications, likely using both wired and wireless technologies, to monitor the grid and provide smart metering to the home.  So is the current grid architecture a huge barrier to the building of smart grid technology?  Will the smart grid as envisioned not reach into homes and the meters not transmit information in real time through hard wiring or wireless?

Answers… answers… who has answers?