Gordon Day, who will begin serving as IEEE president in January 2012, shared his thoughts during the 2011 Smart Grid World Forum, China on the aging electricity infrastructure and why the need for the smart grid globally is so essential.
In some parts of the world, particularly in developed countries, the infrastructure that provided electricity in the 21st century is now aging and has become much less reliable. It needs to be upgraded, and in some places, replaced. In other areas, there's a great need for increased generating capacity, new sources of power are being developed, some of them renewable, some of them intermittent, some of them distributed. The power may not be generated where it is most needed, where the markets exist. That's causing power companies to need to expand their electric grids to increase capacity and phyiscal geographic size of their transmission and distrobution systems.
At the same time, some experts tell us that as much as 20 or 25% of the world's population currently does not have access to electricity. They are, as we say, "off the grid." If everyone in the world were to use electricty at the rate it's currently being used in the US, it would require a five-fold increase in generating capacity. It would be very difficult for countries to produce that kind of an increase in that short a time.
Because IEEE is such a large organization and because it is so global, it has the opportunity to help develop these technologies throughout the world.