Call to accelerate deployment of smart grid technologies in the U.S.


Washington, DC, U.S.A. — (METERING.COM) — December 17, 2008 – Considering the importance of a smart grid, it is in the best interest of the nation to accelerate the deployment of cost-effective smart grid technologies, according to the U.S. Electricity Advisory Committee (EAC) in a new draft report to the Department of Energy (DOE).

The report, with recommendations to the DOE on how to transform the nation’s grid into a smart grid, says that while much of the technical and policy discussion on how to ensure a sustainable energy future focuses on energy efficiency, renewable energies, storage, and plug-in electric cars, few emphasize the fact that these solutions all depend on a smarter grid to achieve scale and cost effectiveness.

“A smart grid is foundational for a sustainable energy future,” says the report. “If there is a growing consensus within the United States that clean energy is a platform for rebuilding the American economy, then it follows that a smart grid is also critical to economic growth.”

The report highlights a number of pressures on the electric power delivery system that it says are converging, forcing the system to evolve. Among these are global warming, rising energy costs, rising costs of capital, raw materials, and labor, aging infrastructure and workforce, continuing national security concerns and increasing environmental awareness. In addition there are regulatory and social pressures, as well as calls for energy efficiency, growing demand for energy, rising consumer expectations and rapid innovations in technology.

The report says that studies have shown that the economic and environmental payoffs of transforming the current electric power delivery system into a smart grid are numerous. From an economic perspective, a smart grid can enable reduced overall energy consumption through consumer education and participation in energy efficiency and demand response/load management programs. Shifting electricity usage to less expensive off-peak hours also reduces power disturbance costs and allows for more effective operations and maintenance decisions concerning new construction. From an environmental standpoint, the smart grid can reduce carbon emissions by maximizing demand response/load management, minimizing use of peak generation, and replacing traditional forms of generation with renewable sources of generation. A smart grid also holds the promise of enhanced reliability and security of the nation’s power system.

While there are many benefits, there are also challenges and barriers the energy sector will face in realizing the smart grid. Regulatory challenges center around the need to understand the cost effectiveness of new technologies and systems, appropriate cost recovery, the speed of smart grid developments, all while ensuring concrete benefits to consumers. Utility barriers are predominantly those that result from a risk-adverse business environment that is slow to adopt new technology and may open utilities to increased competition. Additional challenges include the lack of consumer understanding of the new technology and its potential benefits, the need for a coordinated framework, and the lack of widely accepted standards for interoperability.

The EAC says it believes the DOE should take on the leadership role in developing a coordinated national smart grid strategy. The DOE also should guide the development of a national roadmap for achieving the smart grid. Further, the EAC recommends that the DOE should request appropriations previously authorized by the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, and create a formal DOE smart grid program office to drive several key roles and functions, including guiding the creation of the educational programs and materials needed by consumers, utilities and regulators and a future smart grid workforce.