SmartGrid.gov and the Open Energy Information Website: Two Examples of an Open, Transparent Federal Government
One of the first acts of the Obama presidency was to sign the "Presidential Memorandum on Transparency and Open Government,"
which instructed all members of the administration to operate under the principles of openness, transparency, and of engaging citizens with their government. The president issued the memo on his first day of office, unveiling it as he welcomed his senior staff and cabinet secretaries to the White House. "Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency," announced President Obama.
This website, SmartGrid.gov, is one example of that transparency. Along with introducing people to the concept of the Smart Grid and outlining the federal initiatives underway to advance the Smart Grid, this site also documents the large federal investment of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, which itself was passed less than a month after President Obama took office.
Considering the size and speed of the Recovery Act investments, the Obama Administration is making every effort to provide up-to-date information on where the money went, how it is being used, and what benefits are being derived from these investments. Government websites provide a look at this data from a range of perspectives: while SmartGrid.gov focuses on Smart Grid investments made by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), the DOE website includes a Recovery Act section that summarizes all of DOE's Recovery Act investments, while a big-picture view of all the Recovery Act investments is provided by Recovery.gov.
But what if someone is unaware of SmartGrid.gov? How would they find critical government data related to energy production and consumption and on emerging clean energy technologies? The answer lies in the Open Energy Information website, or OpenEI (http://openei.org) for short. OpenEI is part of the Open Government Initiative, providing open access to energy data, including analyses on renewable energy and energy efficiency.
Sponsored by DOE and developed by DOE's National Renewable Energy Laboratory, OpenEI makes energy data transparent, participatory, and collaborative. To make it collaborative, the site is built as a Wiki, allowing users to edit and add data to the site, in the same way that the reference website Wikipedia functions.
Given the mission of OpenEI, it's no surprise that the Smart Grid section of the website focuses on DOE's Recovery Act investments, duplicating much of the information provided by SmartGrid.gov and the Smart Grid Information Clearinghouse. It also includes multiple links back to this website. But OpenEI also allows project participants to update the information provided on their projects, allowing users to get the most recent information. It also allows for other projects, not funded via the Recovery Act, to provide information and data to the world and share their successes.
OpenEI also includes sections on efficient buildings and a range of renewable energy technologies, including geothermal, solar, and wind energy. In the "utilities" section, you can find current utility rates, you can also access and download incentives and policy information in the Incentives section, and the oil and gas gateway provides data on oil and gas drilling, oil and gas resources and supplies, and legislation and environmental statutes related to oil and gas production.
As the Smart Grid projects move towards completion, both SmartGrid.gov and OpenEI will gradually transition from reporting on the distribution of funds and the selection of projects to tracking the deployments, interpreting the results of these projects, and reaching conclusions that can guide other utilities as they move toward the Smart Grid. This open and transparent approach, on both SmartGrid.gov and OpenEI, will help ensure that the greatest possible benefit is derives from the massive taxpayer investments associated with the Recovery Act.