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White House Pledges Smart Grid Data Access, $250m in Loans

The Obama administration yesterday announced $250 million in loans for smart-grid deployment and launched new initiatives to ensure customers’ access to their energy usage information.

White House officials, together with the departments of energy, agriculture and the interior, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology, said the new programs would facilitate the integration of renewable electricity sources into the grid, accommodate a growing number of electric vehicles, and help avoid blackouts and restore power more quickly when outages do occur.

The initiatives include:

  • 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 consumers’ access to their own energy information, including the development of a crowd-sourced map to track progress; and
  • The 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 $250 million in loans would be administered as part of the Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utility Service, which is focused on upgrading the electric grid in rural America, and would be additional to the $4.5 billion allocated to grid modernization by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which was matched by $5.5 billion from the private sector.

The administration said it will be expanding partnerships with states and other stakeholders to share lessons learned from the Recovery Act investments.

The White House also released a report yesterday by the Cabinet-level National Science and Technology Council (NSTC), A Policy Framework for the 21st Century Grid, which delineates the administration’s four overarching goals for the electric grid.

These are: better alignment of economic incentives to boost development and deployment of smart-grid technologies; a 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.

A fact sheet on the initiatives is available here.

Picture credit: Shahril Mohammad

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