Obama Administration Unveils 21st Century Grid Vision

Some nice condiments, but where's the beef?

1 min read
Obama Administration Unveils 21st Century Grid Vision

There are some nice elements in the smart grid package that the White House rolled out today: a $250 million Agriculture Department loan program to advance grid modernization in rural areas; a collaborative private sector initiative, "Grid 21," to promote consumer-friendly grid tech; Energy Department projects to improve consumer access to energy information. Most interesting perhaps is the creation of an interagency Renewable Energy Rapid Response Team, to "improve Federal coordination and ensure timely review of proposed renewable energy projects and transmission lines."

But in view of the enormity of the jobs to be done, some surveying the administration's press releases and game plan will come away worrying about the location of the beef. Tellingly, the 95-page vision statement issued today by the Cabinet-level National Science and Technology Council contains just two-and-a-half pages under the chapter heading, "Progress Made to Date." Almost all that progress has to do with smart meter installation programs driven by the $10-billion package of grants and loan guarantees in the 2009 recovery bill.

Readers may judge for themselves, starting perhaps with the White House smart grid fact sheet posted today.

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This photograph shows a car with the words “We Drive Solar” on the door, connected to a charging station. A windmill can be seen in the background.

The Dutch city of Utrecht is embracing vehicle-to-grid technology, an example of which is shown here—an EV connected to a bidirectional charger. The historic Rijn en Zon windmill provides a fitting background for this scene.

We Drive Solar

Hundreds of charging stations for electric vehicles dot Utrecht’s urban landscape in the Netherlands like little electric mushrooms. Unlike those you may have grown accustomed to seeing, many of these stations don’t just charge electric cars—they can also send power from vehicle batteries to the local utility grid for use by homes and businesses.

Debates over the feasibility and value of such vehicle-to-grid technology go back decades. Those arguments are not yet settled. But big automakers like Volkswagen, Nissan, and Hyundai have moved to produce the kinds of cars that can use such bidirectional chargers—alongside similar vehicle-to-home technology, whereby your car can power your house, say, during a blackout, as promoted by Ford with its new F-150 Lightning. Given the rapid uptake of electric vehicles, many people are thinking hard about how to make the best use of all that rolling battery power.

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