May 07, 2015

Wyden Introduces Bill to Modernize America’s Power Grid

Smart Grid Act Promotes Low-Cost Renewable Energy for American Consumers

Washington, D.C. – Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., introduced legislation to update America’s aging power grid and provide more reliable, low-cost, renewable energy to consumers in the Pacific Northwest and across the country.

The Smart Grid Act of 2015 establishes a Department of Energy program that provides competitive, cost-share grants to cities, electric utilities, and local businesses seeking to invest in innovative smart grid technologies, such as smart household appliances and plug-in vehicles. It also requires DOE to begin the process for developing standards for data sharing and communications between electricity users and providers on the grid to improve grid reliability and efficiency.

“America’s power grid needs an upgrade,” Wyden said. “This bill gives innovators of all kinds – from business owners and electric utilities to families – the tools they need to invest in the types of technologies that will reduce carbon emissions as well as monthly utility bills, all while creating a more connected grid that can react to surges and prevent outages.”

The bill also requires the Energy Department to establish working groups for grant recipients to exchange information and ideas to allow for further development of a modernized electricity grid. In addition, it reauthorizes a DOE grant program that expired in 2012 that provides matching grants for electric utilities.

Portland General Electric, which provides electricity to more than 840,000 Oregonians, operates several smart grid projects in the Willamette Valley.

“Smart grid technologies provide the opportunity to reshape not only the infrastructure that makes up the grid, but also the approach utilities take to meeting the needs of our customers, the economy and the environment,” said Jim Piro, president and CEO for Portland General Electric. “Senator Wyden’s support for smart grid demonstration projects has been extremely valuable as we work to further develop an innovative electric grid for the 21st century.”

Renewable Northwest, an organization based in Portland that focuses on increasing generation of renewable energy, today expressed support for Wyden’s Smart Grid Act.

“Senator Wyden’s proposal puts emphasis right where it should be, on supporting increased flexibility in the electricity grid to accommodate our growing clean energy needs,” said Rachel Shimshak, Executive Director of Renewable Northwest.

The Energy Department estimates the power grid outages and electricity interruptions cost taxpayers about $150 billion a year.

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