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White House Announces Efforts to Build 21st Century Grid

Smart Grid

June 13, 2011

White House Announces Efforts to Build 21st Century Grid

By Peter Bernstein
Senior Editor

This morning (June 13, 2011) the White House introduced important initiatives that are part of President Obama’s Blueprint for a Secure Energy Future.

At a White House event announcing the release of the Cabinet-level National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) report A Policy Framework for the 21st Century Grid, John P. Holdren, President Obama’s science and technology advisor and Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, stated:

“A 21st century grid is essential to America’s ability to lead the world in clean energy and win the future.” He added,“By unlocking the potential of innovation in the electric grid, we are allowing consumers and businesses to use energy more efficiently even as we help utilities provide cleaner energy and more reliable service.”

Holdren was joined by other high-level Administration officials who described the new initiatives and the report. The event also included private-sector leaders and other innovators from across the Nation.

"America cannot build a 21st century economy with a 20th century electricity system. By working with states, industry leaders, and the private sector, we can build a clean, smart, national electricity system that will create jobs, reduce energy use, and expand renewable energy production," said U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu.   

The NSTC report is being promoted as “a roadmap to ensure all Americans benefit from investments in the Nation’s electric infrastructure.” 

In conjunction with the release of A Policy Framework for the 21st Century Grid, the Administration announced a number of specific public and private initiatives:

  • $250 million in loans for smart-grid technology deployment as part of the US Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utility Service, which is focused on   upgrading the electric grid in rural America.
  • The launch of Grid 21, a private-sector initiative to promote consumer-friendly innovations in the Nation’s electric system aimed at ensuring that all Americans have opportunities to benefit from the smart grid.
  • New commitments by the Department of Energy to focus on improving consumer access to their own energy information, including the development of a crowd-sourced map to track progress, a data-driven competition designed to harness the imagination and enthusiasm of America’s students to encourage home energy efficiency, and new EIA efforts to measure progress.
  • Expanded partnerships to continue working with States and stakeholders, including an initiative to share lessons learned from Recovery Act smart grid investments, a series of

regional peer-to-peer stakeholder meetings, and updated online resources available at:

  •          Continued progress on international collaboration to facilitate smart grid trade with the Asia-Pacific region. The United States Trade Representative and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) are working with the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum to cooperate with other nations on smart grid interoperability standards, crucial to increasing market opportunities throughout the region, including for American firms.
  •          The formation of a Renewable Energy Rapid Response Team, co-led by the White House Council on Environmental Quality, the Department of Interior, and the Department of Energy, to improve Federal coordination and ensure timely review of proposed renewable energy projects and transmission lines, to ensure that renewable energy can power cities and towns across America, and to increase reliability and save consumers money by modernizing the grid.

In the fact sheet that accompanied the announcement it was also stated keeping the grid adequately protected from cyber attacks and ensuring the ability to recover quickly from any attacks was a priority. It stated that to keep the grid safe, the Administration will:

  •          Ensure grid operators have access to actionable threat information to the electric grid
  •          Support research and development for better cybersecurity measures
  •          Work with private-sector stakeholders to establish accountability for meeting cybersecurity standards.

Holden, emphasizing that the Administration and the industry are already hard at work modernizing the national grid stated that the new efforts build upon the historic $4.5 billion in grid modernization investments provided for in the Recovery Act—matched by contributions of more than $5.5 billion from the private sector—to modernize America’s aging energy infrastructure and provide cleaner and more reliable power.

“Modernizing our Nation's electric grid plays a critical role in advancing America’s clean energy economy,” said Nancy Sutley, Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality. “These next steps will help us transition toward the economy of the future and provide a boon for domestic job growth.”


The event highlighted the challenge where “even in today’s information age, many utilities don’t have real-time information about the state of the grid or know when their customers have lost power.”  Various speakers amplified the issues, opportunities and value that modernization can enable. The press release accompanying the announcement stated:

“A modernized electric grid can bridge these lingering information gaps while serving as a platform for innovation and helping to create jobs of the future. To secure our clean energy future, the Administration will continue to invest in transformational technologies and remove barriers for entrepreneurs to bring those technologies to market.”


The Administration also highlighted that to help speed the maturation of a smarter grid, the Department of Energy, as proposed in the President’s FY’ 12 budget request, is planning to a create a Smart Grid Innovation Hub to bring together Federal researchers, private-sector innovators, and representatives from the Nation’s utilities to support research, development, and deployment of smart grid technologies.

Finally, the Department’s Advanced Research Project Agency-Energy is funding new grid-controls research and is collaborating with utilities and military bases to test promising new transformational technologies.


Peter Bernstein is a technology industry veteran, having worked in multiple capacities with several of the industry's biggest brands, including Avaya, Alcatel-Lucent (News - Alert), Telcordia, HP, Siemens, Nortel, France Telecom, and others, and having served on the Advisory Boards of 15 technology startups. To read more of Peter's work, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Rich Steeves

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