Cantwell's National Smart Grid Goal Receives Unanimous Approval of Senate Energy Panel

WASHINGTON, DC – Legislation authored by U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) creating a national standard for efficiency and reduction of peak electricity demand was approved today by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.  Included as part of a larger comprehensive energy package, this measure seeks to reduce the gap between periods of lowest and highest electricity demand by 1.5 percent per year through 2030.  It does so by means of action plans for national electric system efficiency and reduction of peak demand. These plans would help identify future regulatory, funding, and policy priorities to meet these targets.

“Smoothing out electricity demand and reducing on-peak electricity use is critical to lowering overall electricity costs and making the electricity grid more efficient and reliable,” said Cantwell.  “According to the Government Accountability Office, 100 hours of annual peak demand can account for 10 to 20 percent of total annual electricity expenditures.   Reducing peak periods will also significantly lower the risk of blackouts and brownouts, which can cost tens of billions of dollars and risk lives.” 

Controlling peak demand is critical to the development of the Smart Grid, a top priority for Cantwell, because the technologies and techniques used to manage and reduce peak demand are the same as those needed to bring more diverse power sources online.  Reducing overall electricity demand, deploying distributed generation, smart meters, energy storage, and time-based pricing, and using smart grid technologies, the U.S. electricity grid will suffer fewer outages, and ratepayers will save billions.

A recent smart-grid demonstration project conducted by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) found that if households have digital tools to set temperature and price preferences, peak loads on utility grids could be trimmed by up to 15 percent a year. Over 20-years, this could save $70 billion on spending for power plants and infrastructure, and avoid the need to build the equivalent of 30 large coal-fired plants.

The Energy Committee will continue marking up the comprehensive energy package next Tuesday and plan on completing the measure next week.

# # #