Trade officials, regulators and industry experts from APEC economies gathered for a two-day dialogue to discuss the challenges and opportunities of domestic smart grid initiatives and how to facilitate trade and investment related to this emerging technology.

The aim of the dialogue was to broaden the understanding of the relationship between smart grid interoperability standards and trade and investment flows in the Asia-Pacific region.

APEC recognizes smart grid development as a way to address climate change and improve energy efficiency. It also promotes green growth, which is a key priority for APEC during the 2011 U.S. host year.

Dr. Wilbert Charlton Adams, Jr., past president of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Standards Association, told participants at the dialogue that smart grid not only has “revolutionary benefits” for the environment, but also has “a potential USD 30 trillion dollar global business opportunity over the next two decades.”

Another study predicted that the potential market for smart grid products would be more than USD 170 billion in 2014. APEC economies are already investing billions in the development of smart grid infrastructure and technologies. At the dialogue, participants agreed that early cooperation on interoperability standards will help prevent technical barriers to trade from emerging.

Interoperability – or the ability of a system or a product to work seamlessly with other systems or products – is a major technical challenge facing smart grid deployment, and greater standardization is the key to addressing this.

“The widespread benefit [of smart grid] can only be realized through interoperability, achieved through successful standards cooperation,” said Dr. Adams. “Attaining global smart grid interoperability will be a cornerstone of future global economic development.”

Smart grid interoperability standards will have a direct impact on trade, affecting many APEC economies. Addressing unnecessary technical barriers to trade and investment related to smart grid technologies is therefore the goal of the APEC Regulatory Cooperation Advancement Mechanism – an initiative of the APEC Committee on Trade and Investment to advance regulatory cooperation on emerging regulatory issues.

“Standards are the glue that will hold the smart grid together – ensuring all the components are interoperable,” said Mr. Ken Kozlik, Chief Operating Officer of Ontario, Canada’s Independent Electricity System Operator, who also spoke at the dialogue. “The adoption and application of standards can promote trade opportunities, or create barriers if they are ignored,” he added.

The APEC Committee on Trade and Investment and other APEC working groups have been meeting in Big Sky, Montana to advance their work to strengthen regional economic integration and promote trade. APEC Ministers Responsible for Trade and Small and Medium-size Enterprises are also meeting in Big Sky to discuss the progress on the year’s priorities.

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For more information, contact: Augustine Kwan +65 9831 0717 at ak@apec.org or Michael Chapnick +1 (202) 664 6245 at mc@apec.org