Obama administration officials released a plan on June 13 to further develop smart grid initiatives. The plan includes a commitment to invest a minimum of $250 million in loans for smart grid projects in the rural U.S. The Obama administration says it has already invested $4.5 billion in recovery investments into smart grid projects, which was matched by $5.5 billion in private money.
The plan includes the following nine initiatives initiatives to spur the smart grid:
1) As part of the Department of Agriculture Rural Utility Service, the administration will offer a minimum of $250 million in loans for smart grid projects in rural places in the U.S., as well as a potential of another $106 million in upgrades.
2) The administration is launching a new non-profit program called Grid 21, which will focus on spurring consumer-facing tools that will help customers reduce energy consumption while maintaining privacy and security.
3) The Department of Energy is working on new projects, including a crowd-sourced map that will track progress of smart grid projects, a student competition around home energy efficiency, and an Energy Information Administration project on measuring energy efficiency progress.
4) The administration launched an initiative that will seek to share the lessons learned from the smart grid stimulus investments. They will also hold a series of stakeholder meetings, and they have created a new website: www.SmartGrid.gov.
5) The administration unveiled a “Renewable Energy Rapid Response Team” that will review clean power and transmission line projects and improve “federal coordination” for getting clean power projects deployed. The team will be led by the White House Council on Environmental Quality, the Department of the Interior and the Department of Energy.
6) The administration put an emphasis on grid security issues and says it will create ways for grid operators to have access to information about threats to the power grid, help companies deliver new security tools and create security standards.
7) In the President’s fiscal year 2012 budget, the DOE has asked for funds to build a “Smart Grid Innovation Hub,” that will be a collaboration of federal researchers, companies and utility representatives. This hub will support R&D and project deployments.
8) The DOE’s high-risk early stage program, the Advanced Research Project Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) will support new smart grid research and is working with utilities and military bases to test new tech.
9) The administration has also released a report that focuses on four ways to help modernize the grid, including how to better align economic incentives that will spur smart grid technologies; how to focus on standards and interoperability to boost innovation; how to help empower consumers with energy tools; and how to increase grid security and resilience.
According to a new report from Black & Veatch, utility leaders think that one of the biggest barriers to deploying a smarter grid is uncertainty about how much more federal funding will be available once stimulus funding has been committed.
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