Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration. Accordingly, a 'genius' is often merely a talented person who has done all of his or her homework.
- Thomas Edison
Smart Grid Education Begins with the Youth

Last week I attended Smart Grid Live, not to be confused with Saturday Night Live, which is an event that focused on actual smart grid technologies at utilities. Located in beautiful Ft. Collins, Colorado, the event focused on live demonstrations of the smart grid technologies in use at various utilities around the globe. In addition to the demonstrations, which were a breath of fresh air, the event focused on the advancement of the smart grid today, namely educating consumers.

Much attention has been recently paid to consumer engagement and education with smart meter issues resulting in opt-out plans for several states. With the advantage of hindsight, the industry is now claiming that consumer education is the way to go. Had we educated our consumers on the benefits of smart grid before rolling out smart meters, we may have avoided some of the issues we are facing today. Others are arguing that simplification in the form of set-it-and-forget-it type technologies are the way to win over the consumer. Yet others argue for consumer engagement as something utilities have not historically done but need to do now and into the future. In reality, smart grid education involves all of the above.


The Ft. Collins event was a production of The Center for Smart Grid Advancement, an initiative led by smart grid solution provider, Spirae. Something I have not witnessed before at an event was the education program held for local high school students. On the final day of the event approximately 200 high school students from Ft. Collins area high schools attended dedicated sessions to shed light on the smart grid and the utility industry in particular. The students were greeted by U.S. Senator Michael F. Bennet’s office followed by a smart grid workshop that taught how various energy sources will communicate with homes, cars, and businesses to meet the energy needs of the future through a smart grid simulation. After the workshop, the students participated in a career panel to discuss academic options and career paths with local leaders from Colorado’s top smart grid businesses and utility companies such as Xcel Energy, the University of Colorado, Spirae, and Mycoff, Fry & Prouse.


At a press briefing during the event, the importance of education was discussed. Various industry stakeholders agreed that reaching kids in middle school, high school, and college is critical for future success of the smart grid. In fact, Spirae has partnered with Colorado State University on a smart grid lab in the City of Ft. Collins. The University of Colorado has started a new program called the Digital Energy program that brings together I.T., Telecommunications, and Engineering to focus on integrating telecommunications into the electric power grid. Both universities were well represented at the event as well as the Smart Grid RoadShow recently held in Vancouver and hosted by BC Hydro.


Changes in the industry require a new skill set. It is no secret that all industries are suffering from an aging workforce globally. It strikes me as odd lately to hear the woes of unemployment rates while some companies have jobs going unfilled because the lack of a trained workforce. Educating youth not only on the smart grid but on the occupations that will be required by a modernized grid will be a key to success and future growth. To hear what our future President believes is the key to economic success, I urge you to tune in to another Colorado university (the University of Denver) this evening for the first of three Presidential debates. Hopefully someone will ask about the training of a new workforce.


Jon Brock is President of Denver-based utility and energy advisor Desert Sky Group, LLC. He can be reached at

1 comment | Add a New Comment
1. Thuranira | October 14, 2012 at 02:50 AM EDT

Just like traditional scohol this concept works for some students but not all. I would speculate that it works for less students that traditional scoholing. I would also imagine that this would be very teacher dependant, and teachers lacking the skills needed to implement such an open program would struggle or their kids would struggle.

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