“This morning’s hearing is on a topic that most of us had not even heard of just a few years ago but that today is talked about more and more frequently. That is, the smart grid. Briefly understood, this phrase refers to the digitization of the transmission and delivery systems for electricity in order to make maximum use of modern technologies.
“We foresee that smart grid technologies can make the transmission system more efficient, reducing line loss and reducing congestion which causes higher costs. Also that it can make the transmission and distributions systems more reliable by allowing quicker response to failures in the event of emergencies. Further, that customers can take advantage of computerized meters and appliances to reduce demand at peak hours through shifting load to off-peak hours. This reduces the need for peak generation, reducing emissions and lowering costs.
“In 2007, we initiated a number of programs to further the digitization of the grid. In the Energy Independence and Security Act, we required the Department of Energy to form a smart grid task force to track developments and advance this program. We required the National Institute of Standards and Technology, in cooperation with DOE and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, to head up an effort to develop an interoperability framework, to establish uniform standards for these technologies.
“We also authorized a grant program for demonstration projects to better understand the potential for smart grid benefits and to come to understand the problems that might attend actual installation on a commercial scale. We authorized a grant program for investments in the installation, development and manufacture of these technologies.
“In the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, earlier this year, we funded those grant programs.
“Witnesses are here today to report on the progress thus far in implementing these programs. Government witnesses are able to testify as to the steps taken to get the interoperability framework under way, as well as on how the funding for the grant programs is being prioritized and administered. Industry witnesses can give their perspectives on these same programs. All should feel free to let us know whether or not we have gotten it right as far as the structure of these programs goes, and as to whether or not there is something else we need to do in legislation.”
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