One of the largest US-based industry conferences for electricity, gas, and water utilities just wrapped up in San Antonio, Texas. The entire value chain for electricity was well-represented there – you could find products for generation, transmission, distribution, and consumption of electricity. These products modernize the grid – making it the Smart Grid. The profusion of products prompted me to think about what really drives innovation in the electricity value chain. In Silicon Valley, entrepreneurs know that successful new products or services have to be painkillers or vitamins. As a painkiller, an innovation has to resolve a pain for its target audience. If it’s a vitamin, an innovative product or service has to improve an existing situation. Otherwise, there’s just no motivation or incentive for a consumer or organization to adopt that innovation. And in a down economy, it’s all about painkillers.