Screen shot 2009-11-19 at 11.59.28 AMDuring GreenBeat 2009’s International breakout panel, examining Smart Grid development on the global level, the prevalent theme was consumer engagement: in a regulated environment, like the U.K., how do you engage the consumer? How do you get them to change their behavior?

According to Ray Bell of WiMax for Smart Grid company Grid Net, it’s really about service. Cleaner energy, he claims, will become a marketable service because, even though it costs more, people will feel better about buying it. This has already proven true in many fields; Wal -Mart sells organic products as well as everyday bargains. But this is a subtle departure from most thoughts on global energy — the notion of green power as a desirable option as opposed to a necessity.

Rob Conant of networking software provider Trilliant considered it a matter of economics, taking the stance that implementation of cleaner power and smarter distribution is going to be predicated upon its economic viability and a positive regulatory environment. He also regarded Africa as having solid potential for growth that will only be accelerated by imminent technical breakthroughs.

Pilgrim Beart, CEO of home energy monitoring company and recent Google PowerMeter partner AlertMe, said he is concerned that the regulatory environment of the U.K. (which is legally obliged to reduce power consumption 30 percent by the year 2020) could breed apathy in customers. Seldom do people who are being dictated to choose to change their behaviors.

Consider the behavior of teenagers under over-strict parents — only the minimum possible behavioral change is normally seen. In this case, that means that people won’t end up saving any more power than they are forced to. In the U.K., this would mean probable failure at their 2020 deadline.

In the back of the room, keyboards are clattering as people type while Bell talks about the propagation and standardization of  the ZigBee protocol, wireless power data transmission and how it’s all on the same track that WiFi standardization was a couple years ago.