Once an obscure technology, smart grid nearly become a household name this year when the White House announced this June a multi-pronged smart grid strategy.

“Even in today’s information age, many utilities don’t have real-time information about the state of the grid,” the White House said at the time. It lauded two high school girls, Daniela Lapidous & Shreya Indukuri, juniors at the Harker Upper School in San Jose, California who successfully implemented a smart sub-metering system in their school.

“Essentially, such a system gives the school access to a live data feed of its energy use, per building, at any hour of the day,” the girls wrote on their website, SmartPowerEd.org. They said it has saved their school thousands of dollars.

Smart grid has become known for a wide range of energy initiatives aimed at recreating electric grids worldwide and making them more capable of communicating outages and reducing load when needed, more efficient at transmitting power, and more capable of incorporating intermittent generation sources like wind and solar. The projects generally fall under six key smart grid trends: distribution automation, data analytics, demand response, carbon management, home energy management and electric vehicles.

Smart grid technology has been installed successfully in various countries, most notably in the Mediterranean island country of Malta, where IT giant IBM, in collaboration with the local electrical Enemalta Corporation and Water Services Corporation, has nearly completed a national smart grid system.

Besides giving the national utility more flexibility with generation types, the smart grid initiatives involved installing home smart meters in the homes of almost all of the island’s 300,000 residents. These meters have interactive software components, including smart phone applications, that allow consumers to engage with data and change their electrical use in real-time.

IBM is pushing for smart grid implementation throughout Europe by forming broad-based consumer and industry-wide coalitions that hope to nudge governments and regulators forward on smart grid, IBM’s North East Europe Leader for the Energy & Utilities Industry Gavin Jones told Breaking Energy.

But even as government officials around the world recognize the value of modernizing the grid, energy utilities–some of which are launching testing sites of smart grid–are highly skeptical of the new technology.

In discussing software-based energy solutions, Ravi Viswanathan, a general partner at NEA told Breaking Energy, “utilities are very risk averse when it comes to new technology. Some utilities are adamant about not adopting these.”

As it becomes more mainstream, industry groups have begun pushing for uniform standards that will allow consumers to recognize smart grid energy. Currently one of the primary goals of the Galvin Electricity Initiative, the Perfect Power Seal of Approval would measure reliability, efficiency, cost and consumer empowerment metrics of microgrids and smart grid systems.

But with high rates of return, Viswanathan said the US will start to see utilities roll out various smart grid initiatives in the coming years.

Photo Caption: Southern California Edison linemen work to restore electrical service knocked out by a large storm, January 11, 2000, at Sunset Beach, CA, as a stage three energy alert took effect across California.