Richland native turned energy expert Jesse Berst said he believes the Tri-Cities could lead the nation in discussions of how to take America's energy policy to the next level.
And where energy is going is onto the smart grid, he told an audience of Tri-City Development Council members in Pasco on Wednesday.
Berst is the president of the Center for Smart Energy and serves on the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory Advisory Council.
He has written numerous books and articles on technology and energy, and has advised the Department of Energy and several other agencies.
The message he had for TRIDEC is that a bounty of economic opportunity is available in the electric energy sector, which he said is the fastest growing part of the economy right now.
"The global smart grid market will double in the next five years," he said. "The energy sector is leading the global recovery. Energy is where it's at today."
Smart grid technology is designed to improve the power grid's reliability and performance by optimizing the push and pull of supply and demand. Electricity generators, suppliers and consumers are part of the equation and can benefit from improvements.
A smart grid enhances power delivery and use through intelligent two-way communication between suppliers and consumers. It can include interactive appliances in homes, improved substation automation and sensors on transmission lines to monitor activities in real time, exchange information about supply and demand and adjust power use based on instantaneous data.
Berst described smart grid technology as "Electricity 2.0," and likened transforming the nation's electricity systems to transforming telecommunications from the analog technology of the 20th century to 21st century digital systems.
"It's like the internet for energy," he said.
And with world-class smart grid research being done at PNNL, the Tri-Cities could lead the way, Berst said.
"It's a great place to start the discussion," he said.