A number of new initiatives aimed to accelerate the modernization of the United States’ electric infrastructure, bolster electric grid innovation, and advance a clean energy economy were announced yesterday.
The new initiatives include the following:
- $250 million in loans for smart grid technology deployment as part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utility Service, which is focused on upgrading the electric grid in rural America
- The launch of Grid 21, a private sector initiative to promote consumer friendly innovations in the nation’s electric system, with the first action involving a partnership with Texas-based Oncor and CenterPoint Energy, San Diego Gas & Electric in California, as well as Itron, Landis+Gyr and IBM, to launch a Biggest Energy Saver Campaign, with the aim to jumpstart the market for customer friendly energy management tools
- New commitments by the Department of Energy to focus on improving consumer access to their own energy information, including the development of a crowd-sourced map to track progress, a data driven competition for students to encourage home energy efficiency, and new efforts to measure progress
- Expanded partnerships to continue working with states and stakeholders, including an initiative to share lessons learned from Recovery Act smart grid investments, a series of regional peer-to-peer stakeholder meetings, and updated online resources
- Continuing progress on international collaboration to facilitate smart grid trade with the Asia-Pacific region, with the U.S. trade representative and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) working with the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum to cooperate with other nations on smart grid interoperability standards
- The formation of a Renewable Energy Rapid Response Team, co-led by the White House Council on Environmental Quality, the Department of Interior, and the Department of Energy, to improve federal coordination and ensure timely review of proposed renewable energy projects and transmission lines.
Further, actions to enhance the cybersecurity of the grid will include ensuring grid operators have access to actionable threat information to the grid, supporting research and development for better cybersecurity measures, and working with private sector stakeholders to establish accountability for meeting cybersecurity standards.
Finally, the Department of Energy, as proposed in the President’s FY ’12 budget request, is planning to a create a Smart Grid Innovation Hub to bring together federal researchers, private sector innovators, and utility representatives to support research, development, and deployment of smart grid technologies. In addition, the Department’s Advanced Research Project Agency-Energy is funding new grid controls research and is collaborating with utilities and military bases to test promising new transformational technologies.
“America cannot build a 21st century economy with a 20th century electricity system,” commented Energy Secretary Steven Chu. “By working with states, industry leaders, and the private sector, we can build a clean, smart, national electricity system that will create jobs, reduce energy use, and expand renewable energy production.”
At the same time a new report, “A Policy Framework for the 21st Century Grid,” was released by the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC), delineating four overarching goals the Administration will pursue in order to ensure that all Americans benefit from investments in the nation’s electric infrastructure. These are better alignment of economic incentives to boost development and deployment of smart grid technologies, a greater focus on standards and interoperability to enable greater innovation, empowerment of consumers with enhanced information to save energy, ensure privacy, and shrink bills, and improved grid security and resilience.