If you want the quick overview read MarketWatch's special report "It's alive: The urgent need to upgrade the grid"
IBM has broad green-tech intentions, branching from energy-efficient data centers to cutting-edge solar cell technology. Next up is a concerted smart-grid effort.
The computing giant is preparing a technical "framework" to accelerate new technology integration into the creaky electricity distribution grid, said Drew Clark, director of strategy for IBM's Venture Capital Group, which is charged with aligning start-ups with IBM and its customers.
The idea is to create a common set of communication protocols and data formats that utilities and smart-grid start-ups can adhere to.
With these technical blueprints, based on standards like TCP/IP, new technologies can be plugged into the grid on a large scale, Clark said. What's happening now is a patchwork of smart-grid trials using differing products, an approach that prevents fast technology change.
"The biggest challenge of all this is scale," Clark said. "If we can find breakthrough technology that enables us to bridge the gap between start-up technologies and utility scale on an industrialized basis where we can rapidly move technologies into place, then that's the killer application.">>>MORE