A Policy Framework for the 21st Century Grid is Not Enough

Editor in chief TERESA HANSEN

The White House on June 13 released the report “A Policy Framework for the 21st Century Grid: Enabling Our Secure Energy Future.” The letter issued with the document introduced the report as “recommendations that build upon the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 and the Obama Administration’s smart grid investments to foster long-term investment, job growth, innovation and help consumers save money.” The subcommittee on smart grid, part of the National Science and Technology Council’s Committee on Technology, prepared the 95-page report.

The report contains good information and recommendations. I was interested especially in the grid modernization case studies. Many highlighted in the report were prompted in part by the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 and were furthered by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA), which provided $4.5 billion for investment in electricity delivery and energy reliability activities. The ARRA funds were matched by more than $5.5 billion from public and private stakeholders.

The report says the act and ARRA initiatives together funded 141 smart grid grants and cooperative agreements for U.S. smart grid and energy storage technology. Some of the smart grid projects include Salt River Project’s initiative that already has installed 500,000 smart meters and plans to install as many more; American Electric Power (AEP) Ohio’s Integrated Volt-Var Control demonstration project; and The Pacific Northwest Smart Grid Demonstration Project, a partnership between Bonneville Power Administration and Battelle aimed at validating the value of smart grid technologies in the Pacific Northwest through the creation of a regional business case. The report discusses progress on many other smart grid projects, including projects at smaller utilities. I encourage you to take a look at it if you haven’t already.

The report also talks about the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s (NIST’s) smart grid standards initiative, as well as privacy issues and cybersecurity. It sets smart grid and clean energy goals, including one that aims for 80 percent of U.S. energy to come from clean sources by 2035. The report seems to be an accurate and thorough look at U.S. smart grid progress, as well as a thoughtful road map for smart grid progress. The report is not, however, a mandate or regulation, which, as I’ve said before, the electricity industry needs.

Since President Barack Obama took office in 2009 and shortly thereafter appointed Steven Chu as U.S. energy secretary, his administration has encouraged and helped fund many electric energy-related initiatives. It’s clear the president supports advancing energy technologies that will improve efficiency, reduce environmental hazards and create new energy sector jobs. He has not demonstrated, however, an interest in pushing for an energy policy like he pushed for a health care policy, and that’s disappointing.

For those interested in smart grid, this framework document is a good read. Unfortunately, it isn’t much more than that.

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