Last week I attended Distributech 2011 in San Diego. What I came away with was the sense that we are well on the way to sorting out the many operational complexities associated with installing and connecting millions of smart meters across the country. Demand response, time of use billing, outage management and ways of tying in renewables are all well on their way to becoming entrenched as standard operational functions. So what is the next stage in the development of the Smart Grid?

With all the hype and venture capital money backing it, Home Area Networks would seem to be the obvious answer. Yet, scratch below the surface and you will see that we are at least ten years away from smart appliances being commonplace anywhere but California. No, the next stage in the development of the Smart Grid will not be written by the retail market, but by commercial and industrial enterprises with large energy expenditures. Without firewalls separating their operational from their energy marketing departments, these companies are hungry for a way to view, in near real time, the full spectrum of their energy commitments, from the meter to the trading floor. And they are in luck, since huge strides have been made on all fronts in the management of energy data.

On the one side, we have the above mentioned advancements made in the collection, communication and integration of operational data. Companies can now see how much energy they are consuming corporate wide on a 15 minute basis and are using this data to manage their operations more efficiently. On the other side are the advancements that have been made in working with trade and risk data. Many companies have systems in place that allow them to fully automate their risk analysis and end of day trade settlements.

Tying the two worlds together are data management applications such as ZEMA that are able to integrate operational with market data allowing companies to visualize, in real time,  all aspects of their energy management. This is opening up opportunities to save money never envisioned when these companies put the infrastructure in place to collect all of this data, and will be the driving force behind advances in commercial and industrial energy management. Demand response, consumption and hedging based on market and weather patterns, spot market purchases and many more actions will now be predicated upon complex algorithms that take advantage of all this data that is now at the company fingertips.

The stage is set for Smart Grid 2.0 and I hope to be in the middle of the action with all the details as it unfolds.