Smart grid foundational for sustainable energy future in U.S.

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Washington, DC, U.S.A. — (METERING.COM) — January 19, 2008 – 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 the realization of a smart grid is also critical to economic growth, according to a new report by the Electricity Advisory Committee.

While much of the technical and policy discussion about how to ensure a sustainable energy future focuses on energy efficiency, renewable energy sources, storage, and plug-in electric cars, it is often forgotten or underemphasized that these solutions all depend on a smarter grid to achieve scale and cost effectiveness, the report says. “A smart grid is therefore foundational for a sustainable energy future.”

The report, “Smart grid: Enabler of the new energy economy,” was prepared for the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to offer guidance on policies that should be adopted to transform the nation’s grid into a smart grid and to ensure that a successful smart grid program is funded and implemented in the months ahead.

According to the report there are several critical steps that the DOE can take to help overcome the challenges of transforming the grid and fulfilling its pivotal and much-needed leadership role in developing a coordinated, cost-effective national smart grid strategy. One of these is that a Smart Grid Program office should be created within the DOE. This office, among other activities, should act as a clearinghouse of global smart grid information, provide information on worldwide best practices, business models, available technologies, and effective regulatory models, and develop and make available educational materials. In addition the office should drive standards-based work once the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) completes its development of a framework.

It is also recommended that a roadmap be developed by December 2009 for the achievement of a coordinated nationwide cost effective deployment of smart grid technologies. Key elements should include a description of the essential components under a smart grid and a prioritization for the development of these components, identification of smart grid subsectors that need further investment, and a timetable for smart grid investments necessary by utilities and other stakeholders.

Congress should be requested to appropriate the funds needed for the Smart Grid Regional Demonstration Initiative and the Smart Grid Investment Matching Grant Program authorized under the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA 2007). Also Congress should be requested to provide the NIST with the funds to coordinate the development of the framework.

The DOE should develop and manage appropriate R&D and deployment projects to identify and prove next steps, and should direct the Smart Grid Regional Demonstration Initiative and Matching Grant Program. An education campaign also should be conducted, focused on educating consumers on the cost of energy and how those costs can be better managed.

The DOE should establish a smart grid engineer and technician development program that encourages students to pursue smart grid-related technical degrees and that provides workforce training.

Finally the DOE should work with Congress, industry, state regulators, and other stakeholders to create incentives and standards that will drive a market for smart grid-ready controllable devices beyond the meter.