Brooklyn Law Review


The smart grid promises an efficient, reliable, and sustainable energy system. Smart meters provide machine-to-machine communication capacity and are key elements of the smart grid. Smart meters allow utilities to improve system efficiency and reliability and allow electricity users to closely monitor, fine-tune, and reduce energy consumption and costs. For these and other reasons, positive expectations for the smart grid and smart meters run high among policymakers, regulators, engineering and computer science professionals, industrialists, environmentalists, and others. Even so, different organizations and stakeholders define and understand the technology in different ways. For some actors smart meters are a tool for democracy, for others a means of economic efficiency, and so on. This study examines the “technological visions” held by electric utilities, research laboratories, consumer advocacy agencies, and technology firms operating in the smart meter field in Washington State. Technological visions of relevant actors may be mutual, complementary, or conflicting. These differences and similarities shape coordination and shared understanding among field actors and provide insights into the role smart meters are likely to play in the transition to a smart energy system. The data we present here is derived from interviews conducted in 2014 with individuals representing different smart meter field organizations. We address the implications of our findings for sociological theory, legal scholarship, and energy policy.