Over the last several years, the concept of a "smart grid" has received increasing attention, starting with the Energy Policy Act of 2005, which set forth the objective of increasing the intelligence of the grid as a means of enabling the more efficient delivery and use of electric power. In the face of increasing pressure to bring more renewable power sources onto the grid, the need for "demand side management" capabilities that come with a smarter grid are increasingly relevant. The promise of a smarter grid is that it can enable users of electric power to respond to changing supply options (say, when wind or solar power is more available), changing demand profiles (say, managing "needle peaks" during hot summer days), or integrating distributed generation capabilities (say, solar panels on rooftops) and electric vehicles.
The development of a smarter grid raises a series of opportunities and challenges that policymakers and academics are now focused on. This conference will address three such issues: access to energy usage information; the protection of consumer privacy in electric usage information; and the effort to secure the grid against cyber security attacks. In the face of commitments by utilities to make available energy usage information, and the Obama Administration's push for a "green button" and apps in energy management, the issues will need to be addressed sooner rather than later. To frame and advance the dialogue on them, the conference will pull together a number of leaders in government, academia, and industry, building on past Silicon Flatirons discussions on this topic.