Last week, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) researchers released a study examining the future of the U.S. electric grid. MIT concluded that developing a modern grid through the anticipation of needed improvements can facilitate the integration of renewable energy resources, accommodate a growing number of electric vehicles, improve resiliency, and enhance efficiency.
The President and his Administration agree on the importance of a modernized grid – and in June the National Science and Technology Council released A Policy Framework for the 21st Century Grid. The Policy Framework provides a roadmap to ensure that all Americans benefit from investments in the Nation’s electric infrastructure, and it features four policy pillars:
- Enabling cost-effective investments to catalyze the development and deployment of new technologies and infrastructure;
- Unleashing the potential of innovation in the electricity sector through a greater focus on standards and interoperability;
- Empowering consumers and enabling informed decision making by responsibly expanding access to energy usage information;
- Securing the grid from cyber-attacks and improving its recoverability in the event of one.
The Administration is taking a number of concrete steps to put these principles into action, building on the Department of Energy’s $4.5 billion in Recovery Act investments that are improving grid performance across the Nation. For example:
- The Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utility Service is investing up to $250 million in cost-effective smart grid technology in rural America by June 2012.
- To advance flexibility and interoperability within the grid, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has released its Draft Standards Framework 2.0 for public comment.
- The Administration has also launched Energy.Data.gov, an open government platform that brings together free high-value datasets and tools, maps,and apps to increase awareness of and deepen insights into our Nation’s energy performance.
- And through its “microgrid” initiatives, the Department of Defense is working to test distributed generation and electricity distribution systems that will help enhance the security and efficiency of military bases both at home and abroad.
To empower consumers and foster innovation, the Administration will continue to promote the common-sense idea that consumers should be able to get access to and download their own energy usage information. That’s why U.S. CTO Aneesh Chopra recently issued the Green Button challenge to industry—and utilities in California are already stepping up.
In a similar spirit, I am excited to see this week’s announcement from the Biggest Energy Saver competition, which challenged electric utility customers in Texas to reduce their energy use. The top 10 percent of consumers cut their electric use by an average of 26 percent – and the grand prize winners in each region won a Chevy Volt.
And finally, the Administration is working to improve the overall quality and timeliness of electric transmission infrastructure permitting through the interagency Rapid Response Team for Transmission.
In his Blueprint for a Secure Energy Future, President Obama outlined a vision for safely and responsibly developing energy supplies while providing consumers with choices to reduce costs and save energy. In addition, as MIT’s new study confirms, modernizing our electric infrastructure is essential to America’s clean energy future.
Nick Sinai is a Senior Advisor to the U.S. Chief Technology Officer