Constructing the Norwegian smart grids: To fix what is not broken?

Panel: 6. Appliances, product policy and ICT

This is a peer-reviewed paper.

Author:
William Throndsen, Norwegian Science and Tech, Dept of Interdisciplinary Studies of Culture, Norway

Abstract

The first step towards the so called smart grid is currently in undertaking by most industrial countries, represented as the development and implementation of the smart meter. The smart meter will digitalize our relationship with electricity consumption, and vastly increase the amount of data as well as its resolution. The availability of this information in the energy markets is defined as the necessary prerequisite for creating the ‘energy networks of the future’, which among other things could ease the integration of renewables, help reduce peak demands, empower and enable end-users to make better decisions, and further integrate markets across national borders, thus contributing to a continuation of a sound social economic management of our liberalized energy markets. However, developing this new technology and implementing it in the most optimum of manners is a constant challenge, and its success will depend heavily on its utilization. This paper explores such challenges in a Norwegian context, where new regulations have charged somewhat unwilling network companies to achieve full penetration of smart meters within 2017. The empirical material is composed mainly of participatory observation and interviews at a medium-sized network company as they have been struggling to define, develop and implement smart metering. Informed mainly by a Science and Technology Studies-perspective, the paper attempts to summarize what both drove and impeded the process, and to map out the many and various actors involved in constructing the first pieces of the Norwegian smart grid. Strategic Niche Management theory is also employed in order to define this undertaking as the transition from the age-old, wholly pervasive infrastructure to the new uncertainty it represents. So, though the decision has been made, many actors are not convinced by the largely abstract rationales for smartness presented to them, and inertia and uncertainties continue to define the situation.

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