Among the more notable spots were this one for Cash4Gold, in which Ed McMahon and MC Hammer urged people to trade in their precious jewelry for cold, hard cash and this one for GE's efforts related to the smart grid, in which an animated scarecrow sings an updated rendition of The Wizard of Oz tune "If I Only Had a Brain" (shown).
The intervening months have not been kind to Cash4Gold, as you can read in the coverage by our colleagues at the Consumerist.
The smart grid has fared significantly better. About $4.5 billion in federal stimulus money from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 is being doled out by the U.S. Department of Energy to help utilities turn the existing power grid into a smart network. This modernization is designed to enable two-way communication between utilities and consumers.provide safer, more-efficient management of the electric grid, and save you money.
Based on what I heard during an Edison Electric Institute event last week in New York City, it seems as if the stimulus influx for the smart grid has the country's biggest power companies in good spirits.
"We've been talking about the smart grid for years," said Thomas R. Kuhn, EEI president and event moderator. "It's finally coming to fruition." He added that 58 million smart meters will be installed in U.S. homes within the next 10 years. Pacific Gas & Electric, for instance, says it has deployed smart meters for nearly 4 million of its 15 million customers in California and installs 13,000 every day.
During the event, Andrew Tang, senior director of PG&E's Smart Energy Web, talked about the "changing relationship between consumers and their electric bill" that smart meters catalyze. For example, instead of paying a flat rate for electricity, customers pay a time-of-use rate, with peak hours occurring from midday to early evening. Customers can also buy an energy orb (shown), a plug-in device that changes colors to indicate real-time changes in the price of electricity. A simple visual signal like this results in energy reductions ranging from 22 to 37 percent, according to Tang. And more-sophisticated technologies are on the way, including comprehensive in-home displays and programmable communicating thermostats, which are supposed to automatically adjust temperatures based on pricing signals they receive from the utility.
The smart grid has its detractors, including those who contend that consumers have to foot the bill for the technology and not-in-my-backyarders who don't want new smart-grid electricity-distribution lines in their communities.
But unlike Cash4Gold, the smart grid hasn't been hit with allegations of fraud and racketeering, making its Super Bowl ad the winner so far in this head-to-head.—Daniel DiClerico | e-mail | Twitter | Forums | Facebook
Essential information: A programmable thermostat won't talk to your utility, but it can cut your winter heating bill by 20 percent. Read our buyer's guide to programmable thermostats (ratings available to subscribers) and learn how to install one. If you're in the market for new, more-efficient heating and cooling appliances, read our FAQ on the $300 million State Energy Efficient Appliance Rebate Program, aka cash for clunkers for appliances.
The Smartgrid ad was very clever and very well done technically. Most people I know did not even notice it, and if they did - thought it was "cute", but had no idea of the subject matter. Any Stimulus money received was a result of merits of the idea and not a result of advertising.