I am less confident in the reality of savings than in the cost of implementation. If government drives & funds the change, $476B tax dollars may disappear on a wild goose chase. If market forces drive & fund the change, the benefits will be real before heavy investment.
But even regulated monopolies want to make money, and as the aging infrastructure starts breaking down, the utility's ability to meet the demand for electricity and make a profit is compromised.
The utilities might need a carrot or a stick from the government to start implementing smart grid technology, but at the same time they have to be allowed to pass on those new costs to their customers. The regulation of retail electric rates would need to be adjusted to allow those new infrastructure costs to be passed on to customers.
$12/month in smart grid costs for the average residential customer seems like a small price to pay for the benefits of the smart grid.
"EPRI is an independent, non-profit think tank supported by a combination of many U.S. utilities and academics". So there you have it, the foxes are telling us how much it will cost to build a new henhouse.
data infrastructure is owned and operated by a number of large companies competing fiercely for customer (consumer and business) dollars; the entire cell-phone industry, rollout of internet broadband, etc. etc.. Grid infrastructure is owned by semi-regulated monopolies with a vast captive customer base. Please compare apples to apples. Regulated monopolies want nothing more than to be required to do nothing; so far we have had near 100 years of incremental improvements because of "less government intervention". Want 100 more? I sure don't.
The U.S. data infrastructure (voice / data transmission long-distance fiber, etc) is all or nearly all fiber optic at this point. Two decades ago, it was nearly all copper and microwave. I don't know the costs involved in that transition, but it was great. Even more, of course, if you include cross-ocean fiber.
How did that happen? Did the government come in and build a "smart data network?" I'm sure there were tax-cuts and subsidies here and there, but every industry gets those from time to time. but I don't recall a government initiative to convert all of our copper to fiber-optic.
If the benefits are really there, this will happen bit by bit and at some point, our power infrastructure will just be virtually all "smart-grid." Other than the normal tax games played by corporate America, I don't think this is a technology that really needs much Government intervention.