I had the pleasure of attending and speaking at the 2009 National Town Meeting on Demand Response and Smart Grid several weeks ago at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, DC. I represented Microsoft as part of Tuesday’s keynote session featuring U.S. Representative Jay Inslee (D-WA), Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Chairman Jon Wellinghoff, and North American Reliability Corporation CEO Rick Sergel.

image Attendance at the meeting was overwhelming. More than 400 members of the demand response and smart grid community were there, including representatives of utilities, technology companies, power rid operators , congress, federal and state agencies, environmental groups, and research and consulting firms.  The meeting was a who’s who of industry smart grid and demand response leaders.

Interestingly to me, many of the topics and discussions mirrored the Microsoft vision of a smart grid, where the integration of all Utility information technology systems will empower utilities to meet the emerging performance, agility, reliability, and other demands of the rapidly expanding new energy economy. As we have noted in our marketing materials and discussions with the media and analysts, the complexity of tomorrow’s energy markets will force utilities to enable the integration of all their IT systems so that information can be presented to Users based upon User needs, rather than based upon application architectures, as it is many cases today.  This integration factor is the primary driver of our vision for tomorrow’s utility.

This Town Meeting event was particularly timely from the perspective of demand response and our June launch of Hohm at the Edison Electric Institute annual meeting in San Francisco. Town meeting attendees echoed the need for solutions that everyone can use to make a difference for the environment while also addressing the issues caused by ever growing peak demand loads. Attendees expressed the need for solutions that are first easy to use and also scalable to support, for use by a broad base of the population. Of course, Hohm is designed to achieve all those objectives.

So, I think it’s good to summarize my observations of others’ comments at the Town Meeting:

· Demand Response needs to be  customer friendly to be successful

· There is need to continually engage demand response to get benefits at all levels of grid and to meet the environmental challenge

· States like Pennsylvania, Maine, Maryland, Ohio, Delaware, Virginia, California, and Texas continue to enact Peak Reduction Standards (which in turn drives demand for home energy management programs like Hohm)

· Many discussions concerning whether time- and usage-based pricing will only work if consumers have an opt-in nor an opt-out mechanism.  Many believe that consumers need to be migrated to a real-time pricing system on a mandatory basis for it to work. Opt-in still the preferred method today

· Certainly the community is thriving at all levels (vendors, utilities) and there is intense interest from federal and state officials.

My talk at the Town Meeting seemed to be very well received. I spoke of the challenges and disruptions facing energy and the environment and our views on those matters. I described Microsoft’s Hohm offering and added to the comments of Rep. Inslee, Chairman Wellinghoff and Mr. Sergel. Interestingly, many of Sergel’s comments directly validated our vision of the integrated utility of the future and the transformation of the utility distribution system from a passive energy conduit to one that is dynamic and potentially supporting millions of dynamic zero carbon energy sources.

I want to thank Rep. Inslee for his kind remarks and praise of Microsoft, a small company in his Redmond, Washington district. He noted our entry into the market with the Hohm release and it’s always nice to be recognized.

In summary, this was a tremendously successful event for the demand response and smart grid cause. It’s obvious that Federal, State and Local governments as well state regulatory bodies and the utility industry itself are all keenly interested in making progress on this front and currently there is good momentum to do just this. – Jon