White House Smart Grid Policy

Source:

"U.S. government to add another $250M in loans for new technologies."

Platts

The U.S. 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 report also says the Department of Agriculture's Rural Utilities Service will provide $250 million in loans for smart grid infrastructure.

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.

The report also launched a private sector initiative called, "Grid 21," to promote consumer-friendly innovations and to manage electricity use.

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