Friday, July 10, 2009

More Information About the Smart Grid

Currently being considered by the Senate is the Climate Bill, a bill that passed the House of Representatives as HR 2454. Section 132 of this bill makes reference to the Smart Grid, a concept put forth in an earlier law, The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007.

HR 2454, Section 132 states:

[4] “(D) Enabling the development of a Smart Grid (as described in section 1301 of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (42 U.S.C. 17381)) for State, local government, and other public buildings and facilities, including integration of renewable energy resources and distributed generation, demand response, demand side management, and systems analysis.”

The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, the bill that contained information regarding the Smart Grid, was signed into law in December of that same year. A summary of the law can be read at and all quotes are from:

The law can also be read at:

The Energy Independence and Security Act set in place new fuel efficiency standards for vehicle models beginning in 2011, encouraged the education of the public on electric vehicles, and supported the use of electric-powered or hybrid vehicles. It amended (Section 134) “…the Energy Policy Act of 2005 to provide loan guarantees for fuel-efficient automobile parts manufacturers” and also referenced loans for facilities and other necessities for the vehicle manufacturers. In short, the law looked forward and made preparations for the automakers and the public to slowly and comfortably move into a “greener” country that would be less dependent on foreign oil.

Of course, automobiles weren’t the only consideration in the law. It also contained directives for survey, research, and study into various areas that concerned energy conservation; it discussed proper labeling of biofuels; it made amendments to the Energy Policy Act of 2005 and the Clean Air Act; and set in progress laws to make more energy efficient appliances (including lighting) and buildings.

The mention of the Smart Grid is here, in Title 13 of the Energy Independence and Security Act:

“Title XIII: Smart Grid -
(Sec. 1301) Declares it is the policy of the United States to support modernization of the nation's electricity transmission and distribution system to maintain a reliable and secure electricity infrastructure that can meet future demand growth and to achieve specified characteristics of a Smart Grid.”

Information regarding the Smart Grid continues through Section 1308. The additional sections read as follows:

"(Sec. 1302) Instructs the Secretary of Energy to:
(1) report periodically to Congress on smart grid deployments nationwide and any regulatory or government barriers to continued deployment; and
(2) establish a Smart Grid Advisory Committee.

(Sec. 1303) Directs the Assistant Secretary of the Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability to establish a Smart Grid Task Force to insure awareness, coordination and integration of the diverse activities of the Office and elsewhere in the federal government related to smart-grid technologies and practices.

(Sec. 1304) Directs the Secretary of Energy to implement a program that includes:
(1) developing advanced techniques for measuring peak load reductions and energy-efficiency savings from smart metering, demand response, distributed generation, and electricity storage systems;
(2) investigating means for demand response, distributed generation, and storage to provide ancillary services; and
(3) conducting research to advance the use of wide-area measurement and control networks, including data mining, visualization, advanced computing, and secure and dependable communications in a highly-distributed environment.
Directs such Secretary to:
(1) establish a smart grid regional demonstration initiative composed of demonstration projects specifically focused on advanced technologies for use in power grid sensing, communications, analysis, and power flow control; and
(2) implement smart grid demonstration projects in up to five electricity control areas, including at least one rural area in which the majority of generation and transmission assets are controlled by a tax-exempt entity.

(Sec. 1305) Confers upon the Director of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) primary responsibility to coordinate development of a framework that includes protocols and model standards for information management to achieve interoperability of smart grid devices and systems.

(Sec. 1306) Requires the Secretary to:
(1) establish a Smart Grid Investment Matching Grant Program to provide reimbursement of 20% of qualifying Smart Grid investments; and
(2) establish and publish in the Federal Register procedures by which applicants who have made qualifying Smart Grid investments can seek and obtain reimbursement of one-fifth of their documented expenditures.

(Sec. 1307) Amends PURPA to require:
(1) each state to consider requiring that, before undertaking investments in nonadvanced grid technologies, an electric utility of the state demonstrate that it has considered an investment in a qualified smart grid system based on specified factors; and
(2) all electricity purchasers to be provided direct access to information from their electricity provider.

(Sec. 1308) Instructs the Secretary to study and report to Congress on:
(1) laws and regulations affecting the siting of privately owned electric distribution wires on and across public rights-of-way; and
(2) a quantitative assessment and determination of the existing and potential impacts of the deployment of Smart Grid systems on improving the security of the nation's electricity infrastructure and operating capability.”, of course, goes into much greater detail, and adds a Section 1309. But, as I understand it, the law governs the study and research of Smart Grids, including any potential dangers; creates a Smart Grid Task Force and a Smart Grid Advisory Committee; and governs the implementation of demonstration projects. In other words, the government was going to research the issue, give it a try, and see what happened, all with the goal of conserving energy.

Research and study of the Smart Grid was to last for at least one year, and reports were then to go to Washington. Included in the studies would be information such as potential peak-time pricing (1304, a, 6), the potential for area-wide power outages (1304, a, 4), and how to create a smooth transition from the current power system to the Grid. Section 1306, d, 5, mentioned the need for the Grid to be able to detect and disarm cyber-security threats and terrorism. 1306, d, 8 made mention of the need for the Grid to “manage and modify electricity demand,” but it didn’t appear to clarify that limitations of use would be placed on consumers as is mentioned in HR2454.

Although money was allocated to the projects under this law for the years 2008 to 2012, I didn’t find that there were rules regarding limited use of power by consumers determined by the amount of use prior to a certain date, fines if use exceeded the allotted amount, and I didn’t notice a deadline by which the Smart Grid would be fully implemented. (Of course, that doesn’t mean it’s not there.) The Smart Grid Advisory Committee and the Smart Grid Task Force were allotted funding for the years 2008-2020, sounding as though it would be a few years before the entire country was on the Grid.

The website for the Department of Energy lists the members of the Smart Grid Task Force at :

The page also has a link to the Electricity Advisory Committee and (on the left side of the page) an icon link to a PDF containing a somewhat general overview of the Smart Grid.

So, what does it all mean? Where have been the demonstration project areas? According to an article in The Washington Post dated March 10 of this year and titled “Stimulus Dollars Energize Efforts To Smarten Up the Electric Power Grid,” there haven’t yet been any cities on the Grid, although Boulder, Colorado, may go on the Grid sometime this year. The article, written by Peter Slevin and Steven Mufson, can be read at:

The article makes mention of the new Grid technology, the capabilities of the Grid, the ability for consumers to know when using electricity in a certain way will cost more or less, and the ability for the Grid to automatically turn off the power to consumer homes. There were several paragraphs that stood out, however, particularly on the second and third pages, and I encourage everyone interested in the Smart Grid to read the article, whether they are in favor of, against, or undecided about the Grid.

The Smart Grid may be the power source of the future, but is it the type of power source the public wants or needs and who will have access to the invasive information on power usage maintained and transferred in digital formats? How will homes and meters be kept safe from “hackers” or viruses or some type of new electricity criminal? Isn’t the best time for these questions to be thoroughly answered before the implementation of any Grid?

Whether you support The Climate Bill before the Senate and want the Smart Grid in your hometown, but especially if you don’t, contact your government representatives and let them know.

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