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June 13, 2011

Smart Grid Investment Keeps the Future in Mind

Network The future of energy will rely on data to deliver the cleanest power to our homes and vehicles. Imagine, for example, a modern grid hooked to a turbine that detects a gust of wind that immediately triggers a charge into your plugged-in electric car while you sleep. Pretty neat, huh?

We're a few years away from mainstreaming this, but today White House officials took a step in that direction by re-boosting its ongoing commitment to the smart grid and its potential capabilities.

Energy Secretary Steven Chu's announcement covered several layers, but mostly highlighted more than $250 million in new loans for smart grid projects for rural areas. The plan will also call for the development of energy data innovation that will provide consumers with information and enable utilities to increase efficiency.

Chu also mentioned the formation of "a crowd-sourced map to track progress of smart grid projects, a student competition around home energy efficiency, and an Energy Information Administration project on measuring energy efficiency progress," reports Reuters.

President Obama's team has already pumped "$4.5 billion into smart grid projects, which were then matched by $5.5 billion in private money." Chu noted that more than 5 million smart meters have been installed across the country, mostly in a handful of states. This new effort will target states with little or no familiarity with smart-grid technology.

"A modern electric grid is critical to meeting the President's goals of generating 80 percent of electricity from clean energy sources by 2035 and putting one million electric vehicles on the road by 2015," Chu said in today's announcement.  Plug in car vertical cropped

This is encouraging considering that advancements in energy and cars are slowly heading into an integrated direction. With the sales of plug-in cars rising, utilities are fully aware of the implications. More plug-in cars could mean more stress to the aged grid. Grid modernization will eventually enable utilities to anticipate demand, and an onslaught of plug-in cars will make it easier for the grid to absorb this demand.

Furthermore, data-gathering capability embedded in the grid will become key in efficiently delivering clean energy to our homes and cars. Bearing this in mind, it could prove to be the ultimate one-two punch to our dependence on oil and coal.

"Public and private investment in smart grid tech is crucial," says Gina Coplon-Newfield, Sierra Club Senior Campaign Representative for Electric Vehicles. "So too is our support for public utility commissions, utilities, automakers, and EV charging companies to integrate smarter technology into long-term product and grid planning. We'll end up saving money and reducing emissions."

For more on the smart grid and what it is, click here. Curious about plug-in cars? Read Compass for EV news and get more information by visiting Sierra Club's Go Electric Campaign.

-- Brian Foley

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