After a decade of sluggish and piecemeal progress on crafting a new electricity market, the US federal government is finally showing its hand in the growing debate over how to ease new infrastructure investment in the sector.
IBM’s smart grid project in Malta seemed unique because the island’s tiny size allowed for easy installation a national energy communications system. Though exponentially larger than Malta, a national and federally-mandated energy system may be nearer in the United States than ever before.
Several recent court decisions, including those concerning greenhouse gas emissions and nuclear waste storage have reaffirmed the authority of federal bodies like the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) diminishing the ability of states and local companies to set their own policies.
This week’s Implementation Proposal For The National Action Plan on Demand Response is part of a new attempt to consolidate jurisdiction of a sprawling electrical grid that more than a decade after initial attempts to deregulate the sector remains splintered between states, local utilities and various agencies.
The Department of Energy (DOE) and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), one a cabinet-level agency responsible for administering law and the other a bipartisan commission focused on regulating the energy industry, have stepped into somewhat unchartered territory by joining forces to address the controversial issue of demand response.
They made have had no other choice, as demand response had proven to be a thorny intersection of issues that requires cooperation and communication between power producers, utilities, grid operators and regional transmission organizations.
The document has been long in the coming; it was originally envisioned as part of a trilogy of documents by the 2007 Congress Energy Independence and Security Act.
That bill required that the federal government address demand response in a three step process that would include an assessment of the issue, A National Assessment of Demand Response Potential (2009), an action plan, the National Assessment & Action Plan on Demand Response (2010) which developed the Demand Response Impact and Value Estimation (DRIVE) model for screening the impacts of demand response and smart grid programs on system operations, and now this final paper that outlines the actual policies the government will implement.
By establishing a national forum and developing a national communications umbrella, as the DOE-FERC document suggests, government agencies are standardizing American policy towards grid operations and pricing mechanisms while also enhancing communication between the various groups.
The plan also involves crafting a coalition for local implementation of smart grid, a move that will complete the streamlining process and bring the United States one step closer to a national demand response system that would manage load shedding and maximize efficiency of power plants.
Photo: (From left to right) Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, Energy Secretary Steven Chu, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, FERC Chairman Jon Wellinghoff and EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson listen to opening statements during a hearing of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on Capitol Hill October 27, 2009 in Washington, DC.