From laissez-faire to intervention: Analysing policy narratives on interoperability standards for the smart grid in the United States

Sachiko Muto

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)
18 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

The imperative of realizing utopian visions of the smart grid puts unprecedented policy focus on standardization. Because standards are a prerequisite for deployment, the US federal government - in a departure from established hands-off practice - intervened to coordinate and accelerate standardization activities. This research uses narrative analysis to explore how such a policy of intervention was constructed. What emerges has elements of a hero story, describing a situation to be remedied: an aging electricity grid, plagued by blackouts and modernization hampered by an electric utility industry composed by stand-alone "silos". In contrast, the vision of a future "smart grid" with promises of improved energy security, reduced carbon emissions, renewable resources, "green innovation" and jobs. The threat: without standards, the risk that sizable public investments become obsolete prematurely. The villain: unnamed companies engaging in uncompetitive behavior. The unlikely hero: The National Institute of Standards and Technology, able to act as an "honest broker", proving that the government can as "catalyst" in partnership with industry. While succeeding in making a strong argument for government intervention, the story can be criticized for making exaggerated claims about the effects of standards, for downplaying the complexity of the process and for failure to outline policy alternatives beyond a five-year plan.

Original languageEnglish
JournalEnergy Research and Social Science
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 17 Jul 2017

Keywords

  • Energy policy
  • Narrative analysis
  • Smart grid
  • Standardization

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'From laissez-faire to intervention: Analysing policy narratives on interoperability standards for the smart grid in the United States'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this