White House Leads Effort to Set Smart Grid Policies

A 21st century electric grid is essential to America’s ability to lead the world in clean energy and win the future. Modernizing the electric system will:

  • Facilitate the clean energy economy by integrating renewable power, enabling distributed generation, and facilitating the use of electric vehicles and electric storage;
  • Empower consumers to make smart choices about their energy usage and save money on their utility bills; and
  • Enable innovation in the development of new products and services, which create benefits to consumers and jobs of the future.

The application of digital technologies to the electric system will enable the growth of renewable power and its smooth integration into existing infrastructure; accommodate a rapid increase in the number of electric vehicles; avoid construction of unnecessary power plants; and help utilities avoid blackouts and restore power quicker when they occur.

Already, the Recovery Act is investing $4.5 billion in 140 smart grid projects across the country—matched by over $5.5 billion of private and local funding—to modernize America’s aging energy infrastructure and provide more reliable power.

Considering all the potential benefits of the Smart Grid, what policies are needed to help it succeed? That's the question addressed in A Policy Framework for the 21st Century Grid: Enabling Our Secure Energy Future, a new report developed by a special White House subcommittee, operating under the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC).

The report delineates four overarching pillars that the Administration will pursue in order to ensure that all Americans benefit from investments in the Nation’s electric infrastructure. These pillars describe how we can move forward to secure benefits of a smarter grid:

  1. “Scale what works” to enable cost-effective smart grid investments
  2. Unlock the innovation potential in the electricity sector with a continued focus on open standards
  3. Empower consumers with education, access to their own energy usage information in consumer- and computer- friendly formats, and improved privacy safeguards and consumer protections
  4. Continue to secure the grid against natural or other disasters.

What is the NSTC, and How Does It Relate to the Smart Grid?

The NSTC was established on November 23, 1993, by Executive Order. As a Cabinet-level council, the NSTC is chaired by the President and is the principal organization for coordinating science and technology policy across the federal government. The NSTC consists of four primary committees: Science; Technology; Homeland and National Security; and Environment, Natural Resources and Sustainability.

The NSTC Subcommittee on Smart Grid is part of the NSTC Committee on Technology. The purpose of the Smart Grid subcommittee is to establish an interagency process that will further the goals of the President's energy plan and the Recovery Act. Specifically, the subcommittee is providing recommendations and guidance for the development of the Administration's Smart Grid policy and to articulate the vision for the Smart Grid, including the priorities, goals, and opportunities for federal action.

The subcommittee is chaired by Aneesh Chopra, the U.S. Chief Technology Officer and Assistant to the President; Patricia Hoffman, Assistant Secretary for the Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability (OE) within the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE); and George Arnold, the National Coordinator for Smart Grid interoperability at the National Institute of Science and Technology.

The subcommittee includes representatives from the following federal government agencies:

  • Department of Agriculture
  • Department of Commerce
  • Department of Defense
  • Department of Homeland Security
  • Department of Housing and Urban Development
  • Department of Justice.

It also includes representatives from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the General Services Administration, with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission serving in an advisory capacity.

Participating organizations within the Executive Office of the President include:

  • The Council on Environmental Quality
  • The National Economic Council
  • The Office of Science and Technology Policy
  • The Office of Management and Budget
  • The Council of Econmic Advisors
  • The National Security Staff.

In support of the subcommittee's efforts, OE issued a request for information (RFI) in September 2010 on the topic of "Addressing Policy and Logistical Challenges to Smart Grid Implementation." The RFI drew a wide range of comments from such non-profits as the Alliance to Save Energy and the AARP; energy trade groups, including the American Gas Association, the American Public Power Association, the Edison Electric Institute, and the GridWise Alliance; grid operators; utilities; utility commissions; and corporations, including AT&T, Cisco Systems, EnerNOC, Honeywell, Ingersoll Rand, Toshiba International, and Verizon. OE has also produced reports on privacy and communications infrastructure to help inform the subcommittee. These comments and reports provided input as the subcommittee developed its recommendations.