I’m late on this too, but do check out what is the first straight news story (that I’ve seen anyway) on Gore’s "electranet" — i.e. smart grid — proposal.

Congrats to Lisa Friedman. It’s a nice piece of work, making the simple point that Gore is not talking about science fiction. The tools to make the electricity grid smarter and more resilient, and to decentralize electricity generation and storage, exist. The barriers are political.

As usual, California is way out ahead of the rest of the country, with the Solar Initiative and some smart net metering laws. But much work remains to be done. Lots of this needs to be tackled at the federal level.

Some good bits from the piece:

Such an "Electranet" would eliminate the need for new-generation plants, spark widespread use of renewable energy and, ultimately, beat back global warming.

“Most of the technology sits on a shelf today,” said Kurt Yeager, former president of the Electric Power Research Institute. “It’s just a matter of incentivizing the system to change.”

Yeager, who now heads the Galvin Electricity Initiative, a campaign to create a new power system, noted that today’s electricity grid is antiquated.

With strung wires, transformers hanging at meters and overbuilt infrastructure designed to accommodate peak usages, electricity is – as activists have long pointed out – the last industry to digitize.

Designing a system that allows your dishwasher or refrigerator to sense changes in the power grid and automatically reduce a home’s electricity consumption, or let homeowners see how many kilowatts of electricity they are using at any given minute, is close to a reality.

The difficult part is changing the system.

Political will! That’s all we need. And it is, to quote the man himself, a renewable resource.