“Those we leave behind may drag us down.”

P. Uma Shankar, India’s Secretary of Power, may have summarized the Monday of GridWeek best. And as the undercurrent of the GridWeek conference, “collaboration” was a much-repeated theme on the event’s opening day.

With skyrocketing electrical demand -- potentially the fastest-growing in the world -- India is investing both dollars and man-power into the development of a smarter grid. In fact, the government of India recently launched both a Smart Grid Task Force and a Smart Grid Forum to ensure forward progress is driven by collaboration.

Collaboration on the consumer front will also be critical, and Mr. Shankar asserted that in the long run, Smart Grid will work only if it’s what consumers and utilities want.

Emerging economies like India will have unique opportunities and challenges, and many of Monday’s sessions at GridWeek were spent addressing that very topic. As part of the conference’s fourth annual International Summit, more than 200 global delegates engaged in dialogue around building a Smart Grid in emerging markets, international collaboration on standards, and international deployment experiences.

In India, Mr. Shankar discussed how many of the challenges with the electricity grid occur at the distribution level. He highlighted unauthorized energy consumption -- like theft -- as a key issue that must be dealt with. “Smart grid is not a luxury [in India], it’s a necessity,” he claimed.

Nicole Y. Lamb-Hale, Assistant Secretary for Manufacturing and Services, U.S. Department of Commerce, stressed the need for Smart Grid technologies within these fast-growing economies. In her Monday keynote, she reiterated the requirement for global collaboration to expand trade with international partners and ensure interoperable technology standards are developed.

Best practice sharing from U.S. and global Smart Grid deployments will be a top focus of GridWeek over the next three days. Sharing “wins” from Hydro One’s Smart Grid roll-out, Laura Formusa, President and CEO of Hydro One, Inc., discussed the utility’s numerous efforts to drive clean energy, distributed generation, and consumer engagement.

Ms. Formusa discussed Ontario’s plan “to get off coal,” and how Hydro One is actively encouraging distributed generation via an aggressive feed-in tariff program, which has made Ontario the leading province for wind and solar capacity in Canada. Additionally, the utility is working hard to engage consumers -- announcing the development of a new, state-of-the-art customer-education center in Ontario.

In addition to the International Summit, the second Consumer Symposium of 2011 took place yesterday, addressing key customer challenges in a collaborative forum. Engaged participants focused on identifying solutions for: innovations in energy literacy, protecting our vulnerable residents, and leaving no community behind.

Echoing Mr. Shankar’s sentiment about collaboration from this morning, Ms. Formusa said: “If you want to travel quickly, go alone. If you want to go a great distance, you better go as a group.”

GridWeek will be gathering quite “the group” over the next few days. Stay tuned for updates from the show, and be sure to follow the Twitter conversation at #GridWeek.


Photo by Freedigitalphotos.