Electricity as we now know it is a 1-way "push technology." Like television, it broadcasts a signal (or current) and whenever you decide to use it you plug in and tap the resource that is wired to your home.
It's a wonderful convenience, but it forces utility providers to build in huge margin of error, reducing energy efficiency and stymying efforts to bring more renewable energy onto the grid.
Right now many utilities are prevented from adding significant amounts of wind or solar because the variability of these renewable energy sources is at odds with the always on, always ready power demands of a 1-way grid.
But what if every home an every appliance in every home could communicate its needs real-time back to the grid? Such a 2-way distribution system would enable computerized communications between energy users (demand) and and energy providers (supply) making a super-efficient, largely renewable grid a viable option.
Google has just taken a major step to make this dream a reality by partnering with a super cool company called Spectrum Bridge, which takes advantage of the "white space" in between standard television channels. The digital TV conversion opened up a huge amount of bandwidth and Google is going to take advantage of it.
Google has been hot on "white space" for a while, not only because it solves the problem of "spectrum scarcity" resulting from overly congested broadband networks (a phenomenon that most iPhone 4G users know well). But also because it gives Google the launching platform it needs to become the energy company of the future.
Google and Spectrum Bridge are now running a beta test in rural Pluma County, California. The test will allow homes to communicate to the electrical grid wirelessly through unused TV bandwidth using Google's PowerMeter software. And if successful, the US will have its first example of a super smart grid that automatically manages its power flow via WiFi.