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Environmental

Smart grid will be a major technical challenge

Prior posts have noted the necessity of a smart grid to improve energy efficiency and allow various alternative energy technologies to deploy their power to the grid even if the generating source is located far from users of electricity.  The challenge was recently elucidated by George Arnold, the national smart grid coordinator for the National Institute of Standards and Technology.  Mr. Arnold noted that technical standards for hardware and software will need to be developed and installed on 5.4 million miles of distribution and transmission lines, 22 thousand substations, and 130 million meters that are operated by 3,100 utilities using products manufactured by hundreds of vendors.
 
The first batch of standards is expected to be released this month, and after revision based on comments sent to FERC in November.  While there is disagreement on whether to start top down or bottom up, the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners advocates starting the transformation with the bulk power grid rather than at the retail customer level. 
 
In June, DoE issued a call for project applications for $4 billion in smart grid funds made available through the economic recovery program.  The first phase of project selection is supposed to occur this month.
 
Further information on the NIST smart grid program can be found at http://www.nist.gov/smartgrid/.  A link to the various DoE energy efficiency programs, including the smart grid, can be found at http://www.energy.gov/recovery/funding.htm.