A note from Shea: I'm out of pocket this week working on a project in Iowa and have asked a few of my green blogger friends to help me out by writing some guest posts. Enjoy this post from Brian Clark Howard of the Daily Green. I'll be back in action next week.  

It seems that the Obama administration isn't the only game in town that's betting on the smart grid. In fact, the Chinese government will reportedly invest more in developing smart grid technology than the U.S. will in 2010.  

China is expected to put down $7.3 billion in loans, grants and tax incentives this year, compared to $7.1 billion by the U.S., according to research firm Zpryme. As it stands, a number of countries in Europe are already farther along in setting up smart grids. England and France, for example, have twice as many smart meters installed, which are a crucial part of the infrastructure, and cost about $100 a pop. Perhaps showing the growing interconnectedness of the global economy, U.S. companies are expected to benefit from work on both sides of the Pacific, including IBM, HP and GE, which has announced a partnership with the city of Yangzhou to develop a smart grid demonstration project.  

Why should greens care about the smart grid? Boosters say it is needed to better build out, and take advantage of, renewable energy. Wind farms, in particular, tend to produce energy more irregularly than conventional fossil fuel plants, since they are weather dependent. Right now we don't have a good way to store excess power when the breezes are robust, but a smart grid will allow much more active monitoring, switching and moving of power.  

Smart grids are also expected to facilitate greater energy efficiency, from the level of power plants down to end users. Well, that's assuming people really do take advantage of some of the features the technology will offer, which not all critics agree on. However, money can be a powerful motivator, and participants in a pilot program through Maryland's Constellation Energy reduced their energy use by 22-37% after they were given simple real-time information through a glowing orb enabled by smart technology.  

The CEO of the Edison Electric Institute, Thomas Kuhn, recently told journalists, "A smart grid will allow quicker service restoration after outages, it will enable new technologies, it will help the environment, it will facilitate plug-in hybrid vehicles, it will reduce our dependence on oil, and it will lead to smarter rates."  

New York's Con Edison is one of several utilities testing smart grid tech. Find out about the pilot project in Queens in this video:  


Don't you feel smarter?  

Brian Clark Howard blogs as URTH Guy for The Daily Green.

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Shea Gunther is a podcaster, writer, and entrepreneur living in Portland, Maine. He hosts the popular podcast "Marijuana Today Daily" and was a founder of Renewable Choice Energy, the country's leading provider of wind credits and Green Options. He plays a lot of ultimate frisbee and loves bad jokes.

China, U.S., and Europe race for the smart grid
Are American electric utilities lagging behind China in the race to fund and build the construction of a smart energy grid?