Wired for progress: Building a national clean energy smart grid


Bracken Hendricks,
Senior Fellow,
Center for
American Progress
Washington, DC, U.S.A. — (METERING.COM) — February 26, 2009 – Viewing the national clean energy smart grid in its entirety in the United States, from the generation of new clean renewable energy to more efficient use by consumers in their homes and offices, reveals an incredible potential to design a new strategy that optimizes the benefits of the whole system for the good of the American people, according to a new report from the Center for American Progress.

This view is instructive of the opportunity to both get the policy right to protect the global climate, and at the same time to build new political alliances to rebuild the nation’s infrastructure to that end. Moreover, this examination further reveals the needs and responsibilities of state and federal policymakers and stakeholders to weigh the national issues at stake in this debate and then strike a balance over how to build and maintain this new energy grid.

The report “Wired for progress: Building a national clean energy smart grid” by Center senior fellow, Bracken Hendricks, aims to set out a road map for developing a smart grid in the U.S., with suggested key policy changes that should be adopted.

The report says that a truly national clean energy smart grid must consist of two distinct components – an interstate transmission “sustainable transmission grid” that will transport clean utility scale renewable energy long distances to market, and a digital “smart distribution grid” to deliver this electricity efficiently to local consumers. The absence of a national grid that seamlessly integrates these two components is one of the biggest impediments to large scale deployment of low carbon electricity.

As such, the policy recommendations focus on the principle bottlenecks for building grid projects and the substantial reform of the regulatory structure required for planning, siting, and paying for an extra high voltage backbone transmission grid and the new transmission lines needed to connect renewable generation to that backbone, as well as modernizing the distribution networks with information technology to produce an advanced smart grid.

These include a framework for collaborative multi-state planning to match new grid investments to our resource base, and a stronger proposal for siting new transmission projects tied to this plan, giving greater power to the federal government but requiring strong state participation.

Broad-based cost allocation is required to ensure that no single region must bear the cost of a national undertaking, as are smart grid investments and standards to deploy new information technology, controls, and advanced metering infrastructure on the transmission and distribution grid.

In addition, major crosscutting issues affecting each of these areas include the need to address workforce development and training needs to build and maintain the grid, enhancing the security and reliability of the grid through these investments, and strategies to promote financing of projects, both public and private, to ensure that these grid enhancements are built efficiently and in a timely manner.

“Establishing a powerful national commitment to plan for a clean energy economy and to build the supporting infrastructure that will be required to reach this goal offers a compelling opportunity to strengthen our economy and ensure the enduring wealth and welfare of future generations,” says the report. “We have faced similar challenges before, and with vision we can now roll up our sleeves and begin again, to rebuild our energy system to create good green jobs, new markets, and strong and healthy communities. This is the promise of a national clean energy smart grid.”