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Cisco: Smart Grid's A $100 Billion Baby

What's as big as 100 Internets -- maybe 1,000 Internets -- and so hungry for routers, switches, and secure IP-based backhaul communications that it could gobble up $100 billion worth of networking technology?
What's as big as 100 Internets -- maybe 1,000 Internets -- and so hungry for routers, switches, and secure IP-based backhaul communications that it could gobble up $100 billion worth of networking technology?If you're Cisco, the answer is the nation's growing energy smart grid, the network linking consumers of electrical power with its producers. Today the smart grid is a fragile creature, but with the announcement of the first set of device standards, the $100 billion baby ($20 billion per year for half a decade) is taking its first eager steps.

U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu Monday listed 16 standards for the interoperability and security of the smart grid, mentioning cybersecurity -- a big concern -- repeatedly. Almost simultaneously, Cisco announced its plans for a smart grid roadmap.

One thing is sure, the Obama administration is fully on board. Last month vice president Joseph Biden outlined plans to distribute more than $3.3 billion in smart grid technology development grants and an additional $615 million for smart grid storage, monitoring, and technology viability.

States, punch-drunk from the credit crisis, are hustling to get in line to get their share.

Time will tell if John Chambers and company have their numbers right. For insight into the smart grid business, it's helpful to understand elecronomics.

What will be equally interesting to watch is whether the potentially huge smart grid technology sector can exist within the limits of a "post-bubble" economy, which doesn't rely for growth on the strength of any single market, or if it will spin off a bubble of its own.