Energy conference: no time to wait on smart grid | KEYE Austin - Green Right Now Austin News, Weather, Traffic KEYE-TV Austin - HOME
Feb 252009

By John DeFore
Green Right Now

A high-powered conference on the future of energy in America was held Monday in Washington; while it produced some consensus about the foundation necessary to meet future needs, it suggested there might be conflicts ahead in getting there.

Attendees, who ranged from former president Bill Clinton to officials at state utilities, heard plenty about the necessity of a new “smart grid” capable of shuttling electricity cross-country from renewable sources like wind and solar farms to the high-density cities that need the juice.

But not everyone was optimistic about the nitty-gritty of building such a grid, and most reports from the event are emphasizing differences of opinion over whom should control its design and placement. As this story from Bloomberg explains, regional authorities don’t want to see the federal government trying to dictate from above. Frederick Butler, of the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities, warned against using imminent domain to implement a nationwide plan, even while admitting that waiting for cooperation from a patchwork of utility fiefdoms isn’t conducive to quick movement on an issue widely understood to be critical.

Expressing his frustration with those delays, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced that he plans to introduce legislation putting the Smart Grid on a fast track.

“We cannot let 231 state regulators hold up progress,” he said, ensuring that he would be quoted in almost every story about the meeting — making him for the moment more colorful than Texas oilman-turned-wind-evangelist T. Boone Pickens, whose most widely quoted utterance was a self-deprecating remark about being seated between two Nobel laureates, Al Gore and Steven Chu.

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