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  • Introduction of the 21St Century Power Grid Act

    by Representative John P. Sarbanes

    Posted on 2015-12-09

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    SARBANES of maryland in the house of representatives Wednesday, December 9, 2015 Mr. SARBANES. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to introduce the 21st Century Power Grid Act. The bill would finance public-private partnerships to carry out innovative projects related to the modernization of the electric grid.

    Unfortunately, today the U.S. electric grid is still operating in the 20th Century. We must act now to improve grid reliability, flexibility, efficiency and security. There are literally a limitless number of ways in which the federal government can play a part to help modernize the electric grid. What we cannot afford is the status quo.

    Whether it's the application of digital technologies, advanced communications and control, distributed energy resources, resilience, cybersecurity, or providing customers with more choice in energy source, usage and rates; it's a completely new world for how we can generate, distribute and consume electricity.

    The federal government--in partnership with state and local governments, the private sector and ratepayers--must play a role in developing a strategy for the modernization of the electric grid and be an investor in the research, development and deployment of new advanced technologies.

    The 21st Century Power Grid Act would direct the Department of Energy to provide assistance, in the form of grants or cooperative agreements, to help advance the future grid. In order to be eligible to receive this assistance, utilities can partner with entities such as national labs, universities, or state and local governments to develop or demonstrate new grid technologies or energy management techniques.

    Most have heard the term ``smart grid,'' but I'm not sure many appreciate how truly revolutionary it could be if we were to achieve a smarter grid. ``Imagine a city in the middle of a deep freeze. The local power grid is struggling to keep up with everyone's heaters. What if the grid could automatically communicate with buildings in the area and negotiate reduced power consumption in exchange for a financial incentive? A large hotel that's only half-full due to the weather could dial back its thermostats, saving money on their bill and enabling the grid to divert that energy to homes and schools.'' This scenario was taken directly from the website of one of our national labs, the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. PNNL and their partners recently completed a two year project that successfully demonstrated that this sort of communication and cooperative energy usage is possible.

    In your own home, imagine if you could throw dishes in the dishwasher or clothes in the dryer and then set the device to automatically start when you can pay the optimal rate for electricity. This is a win, win. Consumers pay less, and utilities can more efficiently manage peak loads.

    And the scenarios I've described don't even begin to scratch the surface of the potential for better integration of distributed energy sources like solar, wind and geothermal; energy storage capabilities; or other advances that only become conceivable when you do the type of basic research this country has always supported and excelled in.

    To not provide the Department of Energy with resources to invest in smart grid research and development would be akin to preventing the National Institutes of Health from doing medical cures research. The electric grid is an indispensable element of modern society and is critical to our national security, economy and the general well-being of the citizenry.

    I urge my colleagues to support the 21st Century Power Grid Act.


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