Do Ancient Nuns Dream Electric Dreams?

By Kathleen Davis, associate editor

During my week in Milan for POWERGRID Europe 2008, I spent any extra moments in my room on the balcony, eyeing the ornate Italian convent across the street.

I didn’t realize it was a convent when I first stepped out to take a picture of the tile and architecture. Then, I spied a head wrap—the long, flowing grayness that represents working day wear for a nun. It slid from the corner of my composed picture to pass through a wooden door and disappear inside.

And then, I literally heard bells.

Click here to enlarge image

The effect was time-transporting, like being in Italy 100 to 200 years ago and experiencing a steady, ethnocentric culture that everyone was positive would never change. It was a stark contrast to the electric floor of POWERGRID Europe itself—an exhibit hall full to overflowing of the latest and greatest of tech gadgets, all the bells and whistles, without being literal. Watching the convent, for a moment or two (or half an hour), I missed the concept of that slower time, a time when you hung out laundry instead of forgetting it in the dryer. But, watching the POWERGRID Europe exhibit floor later in the day, I realized that such a time would be missing the one thing that makes life easier for those of us outside an ancient and Luddite-driven convent (and, I would imagine, inside the modern convent as well): electric power. And I’m not giving up my electricity to join a convent any time soon. I’m too addicted to NOVA on PBS and the convenience of my plug-and-play popcorn air popper—not to mention air conditioning.

So, electricity is going to stay around, to cater to my addictions and everyone else’s. And so we have shows like the one we had in Milan this June, to talk about how we can make power so good, so clean, so perfect, it will become an even more addictive substance.

POWERGRID Europe 2008 boasted good numbers for a sophomore effort, which would make anyone proud, especially the conference director (me). We did have a few problems at POWERGRID EUROPE 2008, of course. No show grows without a few growing pains. But, we are already hard at work to try and fix those for the 2009 show in Germany.

I was very happy with the excellent program our advisory committee put together for this sophomore year of POWERGRID, and I expect next year’s program will be even more impressive and detailed. I’d like to thank all of our advisory board members for their time and effort.

What’s obvious after my week in Italy with POWERGRID Europe: That the importance of the transportation and delivery of electric power is gaining momentum, that the concept of discussing and examining interconnection issues and real-time problems is now on the front burner, that the EU will be watching and taking notes. European countries are moving away from the self-imposed exile—so like a convent—that their separate power grids have been locked into for decades, and we’re moving toward integration.

If you, as readers, have ideas and thoughts about the power grid in Europe, I’d love to hear them. Just drop me an e-mail at kathleend@pennwell.com ” or come see us next year in Cologne. We’ll keep a seat open for you.

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