US Smart Grid future looking bright?

Barack Obama in shades

Photo credit Barack Obama

President Barack Obama was in Florida on Tuesday this week for the official opening of Florida Power and Light’s new solar energy power plant. The 90,000+ solar panel plant, which has been installed across 180 acres of the 5,000 acre FPL property, is expected to generate 25MW of clean electricity (enough to power 3,000 homes) making it the largest operating solar power plant in the US.

President Obama took the opportunity to announce (slightly sooner than was expected) the awarding of $3.4 billion in investment grants to help spur the transition to smart grids in the US.

According to theReuters report:

The grants, which range from $400,000 to $200 million, will go to 100 companies, utilities, manufacturers, cities and other partners in 49 states — every state except Alaska….

The winning companies have secured an additional $4.7 billion in private money to match their government grants, creating $8.1 billion in total investment in the smart grid.

Full listings of the grant awards by category and state are available here and here.  A map of the awards is available here.

The announcement includes:

  • $1 billion for smart meters and in-home display technologies
  • $400 million for grid modernization projects to make electricity distribution and transmission more efficient with digital monitoring and increased grid automation
  • $2 billion, the bulk of the monies, is going to projects which help integrate all the various components of smart grids so they can interoperate seamlessly and
  • $25 million to help expand the manufacturing base of companies that can produce the smart meters, smart appliances, synchrophasors, smart transformers, and other components for smart grid systems

And some of the outcomes of the awards will be:

  • Will put the US on pace to deploy more than 40 million smart meters in American homes and businesses over the next few years
  • Install more than 1 million in-home displays, 170,000 smart thermostats, and 175,000 other load control devices to enable consumers to reduce their energy use. Funding will also help expand the market for smart washers, dryers, and dishwashers, so that American consumers can further control their energy use and lower their electricity bills.
  • Install more than 200,000 smart transformers that will make it possible for power companies to replace units before they fail thus saving money and reducing power outages
  • Install more than 850 sensors – called ‘Phasor Measurement Units’ – that will cover 100 percent of the U.S. electric grid and make it possible for grid operators to better monitor grid conditions and prevent minor disturbances in the electrical system from cascading into local or regional power outages or blackouts. This monitoring ability will also help the grid to incorporate large blocks of intermittent renewable energy, like wind and solar power, to take advantage of clean energy resources when they are available and make adjustments when they’re not.
  • Install almost 700 automated substations, representing about 5 percent of the nation’s total that will make it possible for power companies to respond faster and more effectively to restore service when bad weather knocks down power lines or causes electricity disruptions.
  • Reduce peak electricity demand by more than 1400 MW, which is the equivalent of several larger power plants and can save ratepayers more than $1.5 billion in capital costs and help lower utility bills. Since peak electricity is the most expensive energy – and requires the use of standby power generation plants – the economic and environmental savings for even a small reduction are significant. In fact, some of the power plants for meeting peak demand operate for only a few hundred hours a year, which means the power they generate can be 5-10 times more expensive than the average price per kilowatt hour paid by most consumers
  • Put the US on a path to get 20% or more of its energy from renewable sources by 2020.

Those are some pretty impressive numbers and they should go a long way towards helping the US modernise its ageing electricity distribution system, facilitating the greater penetration of renewable power suppliers onto the grid and thereby reducing America’s enormous carbon footprint!


Green Numbers round-up 10/30/2009

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.


Enough of the half-measures

I’m worried. I’m very worried.

The recent report by MIT on Climate Change was the

most comprehensive modeling yet carried out on the likelihood of how much hotter the Earth’s climate will get in this century

It found that

without rapid and massive action, the problem will be about twice as severe as previously estimated six years ago – and could be even worse than that.

Specifically the peer-reviewed study projects a 90% probability range of a global warming of 3.5 to 7.4 degrees Celsius by 2100 with a median probability of surface warming of 5.2 degrees Celsius.

To put that in context, John Holdren, Barack Obama’s Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, says that the last time the earth was 3 degrees Celsius warmer was 120 million years ago. At that time there were palm trees in Wyoming, crocodiles swimming off the coast of Greenland and sea levels were 20-30m higher. Note – that was 3 degrees Celsius warmer, not the 3.5 degrees which is at the low end of the 90% probability the MIT paper.

The planet and more importantly, all life on it has had 120m years to adapt to the 3 degree cooling which has occurred since then and we have adapted well. However, a rise of 3 degrees in less than 100 years would have catastrophic consequences for most plant and animal species on the planet who are designed to adapt to changes in geological timeframes, not generational ones.

Against this backdrop you have the Barack Obama administration back-pedalling furiously on their climate commitments. Energy Secretary Steven Chu has said he is no longer willing to block the construction of new coal-powered electricity plants in the US, despite the chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Jon Wellinghoff recently announcing no new nuclear or coal plants may ever be needed in the United States!

Further, the current climate bill working its way through the system in the US calls for a 17% reduction in carbon emissions compared to the 2005 figure. Compare that to the much more ambitious 40% reduction on 1990 emissions that the Chinese are calling for and you start to see just how uninspired the US position appears to be.

People need to watch the video above, grow a pair and act decisively on the problem. Enough of the half-measures.


GreenMonk discusses Barack Obama’s energy plans with Trilliant’s Eric Miller

Barack Obama

Photo credit Wa-J


My guest on this podcast is Eric Miller. Eric is Chief Solutions Officer of Trilliant Inc.

We invited Eric onto the show to discuss President Elect Barack Obama’s energy plans for the US for the next few years. Eric has a lot of inside knowledge of the incoming administration’s plans so we had a fascinating discussion.

Listen in and let me know what you think…

Download the entire interview here
(23.2mb mp3)


John Holdren on Global Climatic Disruption

John Holdren has been appointed by Barack Obama as as Assistant to the President for Science and Technology, Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, and Co-Chair of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.

From his bio on Wikipedia

Holdren earned a bachelor’s degree from MIT in 1965 and a PhD in plasma physics[3] from Stanford University in 1970. He taught at the University of California, Berkeley for more than two decades. His work has focused on global environmental change, energy technologies and policies, nuclear proliferation, and science and technology policy[4]. Dr. Holdren served as chairman of the board of directors of the American Association for the Advancement of Science from February 2007 until February 2008[5](AAAS) and is director of the Woods Hole Research Center.

Dr. Holdren is the author of some 300 articles and papers[citation needed], and he has co-authored and co-edited some 20 books and book-length reports, such as Energy (1971), Human Ecology (1973), Ecoscience (1977), Energy in Transition (1980), Earth and the Human Future (1986), Strategic Defences and the Future of the Arms Race (1987), Building Global Security Through Cooperation (1990), Conversion of Military R&D (1998), and Ending the Energy Stalemate (2004).

Last year he gave this talk about climate change (or Global Climatic Disruption as he prefers to call it) at the American Response to Climate Change Conference at The Wild Center in Tupper Lake New York – June 25 & 26, 2008.

That such a highly qualified and passionate climate aware scientist has been chosen to be the president’s science advisor gives me great hope for the presidency of Barack Obama.

I contacted The Wild Center after seeing the video to ask if they had any problem with my reproducing the talk on this site fully accredited and very graciously, they said they’d be delighted!

The copyright of the video obviously remains with The Wild Center – please do not reproduce this video without explicit permission of The Wild Center.

post’s Sonal Shah appointed to Obama’s Transition Team!

Sonal Shah

Photo Credit Paresh Gandhi

I see from my good friend Salim Ismail, that his good friend Sonal Shah has been appointed to President-Elect Barack Obama’s Advisory Board.

According to her Wikipedia bio Sonal has:

temporarily taken leave from her current position as the head of Global Development Initiatives[1]for to help transition in President Elect Obama’s new government.

While the tells us:

Shah has said she will be “getting the things ready for the team that will take over in the government and giving them the option and handing them what they can go do, so that they can do it . . . We talk about a 21st century government, but how do we create it?”

I have to say, it is really heartening to see someone with so much talent and with such a strong global sustainability background being added to the Obama team.