The Obama Administration on Monday announced $250 million in loans for smart grid deployments and indicated strong support for protection of consumer rights, as the smart grid continues to develop across the country.
The $250 million in loans will be granted through the US Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utility Service, which is focused on upgrading the electric grid in rural America.
The loans add to $4.5 billion included in the Recovery Act for smart grid, which was matched by $5.5 billion in private funds.
The White House says it will expand partnerships with states and other stakeholders to share lessons learned from Recovery Act investments.
They announced several new initiatives to facilitate integration of renewable energy into the grid, increase the number of electric vehicles in the US; avoid blackouts; and reduce the need for new power plants.
The initiatives include:
- Formation of a Renewable Energy Rapid Response Team, co-led by the White House Council on Environmental Quality, the Department of the Interior, and the Department of Energy, to improve Federal coordination and ensure timely review of proposed renewable energy projects and transmission lines
- The launch of Grid 21, a private sector initiative to promote consumer-friendly innovations while ensuring proper privacy safeguards and consumer protections.
- New commitments by the Department of Energy to focus on improving consumer access to their own energy information, including development of a crowd-sourced map to track progress
"Consumers deserve access to their own energy usage information in consumer-friendly and computer-friendly formats," the White House says in a release.
The sentiment was applauded by the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA). “Improving and educating consumers on their energy consumption is critical to the creation of a smart grid,” says Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of CEA. “Studies show a smart grid could cut consumption by 20 percent, and CEA’s recent poll found consumers are interested in energy management systems yet lack knowledge of them. Prescient policies and educating consumers on the promise of a smart grid will move our country’s energy and environmental interests forward.”
US Senator Mark Udall (D-CO) reintroduced a bill last month that would establish consumer rights relating to the proliferation of smart grid systems nationwide.
The White House also released a report by the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) that delineates four overarching goals the Administration will pursue to ensure that all Americans benefit from investments in the Nation’s electric infrastructure.
The goals are: better alignment of economic incentives to boost development and deployment of smart-grid technologies; greater focus on standards and interoperability to enable greater innovation; empowerment of consumers with enhanced information to save energy, ensure privacy, and shrink bills; and improved grid security and resilience.
Here’s a detailed fact sheet and the report: