Wednesday, 6 May 2009

A call for spending $4.5 billion on smart grid in a rational way

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) has reportedly said it could be wasteful for the Energy Department to spend $4.5 billion in matching funds provided in the economic stimulus bill to create a digitised, conversant “smart grid” if the investment is made in technology that becomes obsolete or if the public rejects or underutilises the technology.

“Is it possible to expect that this programme can spend $4.5 billion in two years in a rational way?” Murkowski said recently. “We first need to develop standards for the smart grid programme before we start just throwing money at it.”

A report filed by highlighted that smart grid operation standards have not been designated yet despite a provision in the 2007 energy bill calling for the Commerce Department's National Institute of Standards and Technology to come up with standards with the help of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and other organizations so that the technology can easily communicate on the same platform -- a concept known as interoperability.

That lapse combined with the general lack of public knowledge about the smart grid and how to manage energy in real-time could be a recipe for failure, said Murkowski, who has already stated that for the most part, the amounts of money allocated to programmes specified in the bill are completely unprecedented.

Murkowski acknowledged there is money in the legislation that would benefit Alaska, but she said a short term cash infusion doesn’t outweigh the long term financial burden the legislation places on future generations and state and local governments.

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