Resource Based Economy Needs Smart Grids
Let’s provide a bit of context for advocacy of something as seemingly dull sounding as digital electric smart meters.
Conceptualizing and gridlocal verbalizing political alternatives to current socioeconomic stagnation is widely understood to be preferable to mere critiques. As important and vital as a critique is, it has little power without provision of an alternative to fill the vacuum. Critiques are now a booming mainstream industry with today’s internet enabled resurgence of muckraking journalism. Provision of serious socioeconomic alternatives is in the early stages of becoming a major trend as well. Online video debates and video replies to recorded educational speeches are a modern example of 18-19th century political debates via pamphleteering.
Similarly, provision of an alternative is toothless without certain technological infrastructural components to make it viable and workable. Tangible investments into physical precursors that make any major political alternatives possible ought to be focused on more than ever. All of the above 3 approaches to social change (critique/alternative/technology) gain maximum power when conducted in parallel with certain emphasis on actual technology induced physical change on the ground. For example, a political faction ought to focus on energy production and distribution regardless of whether the group advocates more political decentralization, more centralization, or a novel hybrid of both for different areas of societal management. Precise vast storage of energy, transmission of it over large areas, and precise computer tracking of production and distribution of vast quantities of electricity is needed to make each different political concept work.
For the most part, specific policy proposals currently are not often tied to technological solutions but rather monetary incentives and disincentives (there is currently an elite driven trend towards soft paternalism). This carrot and stick approach to prod the herd into an even more technologically complex society in the 21st century is inefficient. Considering that economics is an engineering challenge, there is a better way. Government ownership of electric generation used to be more widespread in the United States and contributed to rapid regional development from 1930s to the present. Surviving remnants of it such as the Tennessee Valley Authority are the best examples of a wide scale public system of beneficial power management.
It is immediately clear how ability to manufacture, transmit, and monitor electricity directly affects ability to provide a life artery to any policy proposal in raising human standards of living. The only discussion here concerning public ownership of a sophisticated electrical smart grid (acting as a sort of “skeleton” on which developmental and social projects can grow) is whether ownership is at the municipal, state, regional, national level, or a federated sharing combination. For instance, if a city owns a fission reactor and produces a megawatt of power, does it reserve 20% of it for use by its regional and national neighbors? Or conversely, does it receive a stipend of additional 20% of power from a regional outside authority? Does the city sub-network just continuously release surplus power into the larger grid or is it collected in local large scale energy storage facilities? [You may begin to notice here and in later articles that electric power achieves certain characteristics of money such as liquidity which can be taxed and redistributed as needed.] Various economic projects involving housing, employment, healthcare, and general infrastructure will require for municipalities to figure out their energy generating and energy sharing arrangements. For them to do so, they first need technological components to make futuristic power management possible.
This cannot be stressed enough. Vast majority of what The Pragmatist suggested over the last few years is not possible without the above. Electric smart grid (and overlapping digital data grid to monitor/control it) is the distilled essential for any future society. We can call it various colorful names to promote it (circulatory and nervous systems of a society for instance) but after much deliberation it is clearly the primary step to take. Even if a high tech liquid direct democracy is achieved, it will not be able to accomplish as much without public energy accounting that the grid allows. People’s will and political will is shaped and checked by underlining physical technological realities. A lot of current political and social projects would not be possible in a society at a 19th century level of technological and electrical development. In this way, much like economics is an engineering challenge, so is politics and popular consciousness.
Resource based economy and resource accounting is not possible without very effective energy accounting first. Smart Meters and grids give rise to possibility of technocratic governance.
During the hay day of America’s Technocracy movement in the 1930s, the main piece of literature (explaining the functioning, goals, and reasons for an empirically managed society) emphasized the need to measure the total amount of electrical generation on the North American continent in real time. This was to understand exactly how much power various extraction, production, and distribution industries use in order to drastically reduce inefficiencies in the national economy and to have the highest possible load factor at all times. This type of informational awareness was obviously not possible at the time especially considering the additional energy accounting complexities that Technocrats advocated (such as energy certificates to be issued to each individual).