White House smart grid policy report includes loans, new programs
Washington (Platts)--13Jun2011/532 pm EDT/2132 GMT
The US government will offer another $250 million in loans to add new
technologies to the aging power grid and launch programs meant to speed
integration of renewable resources, according to a White House report on
smart grid policy released Monday.
The policy report includes the formation of a Renewable Energy Rapid
Response Team, to be co-led by DOE, the White House Council on Environmental
Quality and the Department of Interior. The group will try to improve
coordination and timely review of renewable projects and transmission lines.
The report also says the Department of Agriculture's Rural Utilities
Service will provide $250 million in loans for smart grid infrastructure.
RUS has provided millions of dollars in loans over the years for
utilities, including numerous loans for advanced meters.
Article continues below...
Request a free trial of: Electric Power Daily
Electric Power Daily delivers a complete account of North American power industry news. It features federal and state policy, regulation, crucial environmental issues, generation and transmission projects, mergers and acquisitions, and much more.
Obama administration officials noted during a White House event Monday
that the policy framework touches on several elements of smart grid efforts,
such as cybersecurity and data privacy, standards development, consumer
engagement, demand-side management and supporting investment by utilities and
the private sector in infrastructure and clean energy technologies.
Yet because much of the smart grid technologies are at the transmission
and distribution level for utilities and subject to cost recovery approval
from state regulators, the federal document presents some challenges in
bringing the policy outline to fruition, industry representatives commented
at the event.
Because the costs of smart grid technologies are precise while the
benefits are diffuse, and about 70% of the costs are at the state level, the
cost-recovery process challenges the regulatory structure set up for
utilities, said Bob Shapard, Chairman and CEO of Texas utility Oncor and
chairman of the GridWise Alliance. The utility sector will have to build the
case that the benefits are so compelling that customers will want new energy
technologies, but "I don't think we can solve this state-by-state" and the
federal guidance is welcome by the industry, Shapard said.
Several industry representatives and trade groups welcomed it as another
signal by the Obama administration to support clean energy technologies,
demand-side management plans and other steps already being taken by utilities
and others in the energy management sector.
The administration has overseen billions of dollars in stimulus funding
for smart grid efforts, with billions more invested by utilities over the
past few years.
Secretary of Energy Steven Chu noted that when there are federal
mandates on certain policies, pushback at the grass roots level can result.
The good news for smart grid advocates is "we have no authority" and
thus cannot dictate smart grid directives from the federal level, he joked.
The report also launched a private sector initiative called Grid 21, to
promote consumer-friendly innovations and tools to help consumers manage
their electricity use.
--Tom Tiernan, email@example.com