The energy sector could spark the rejuvenation
of America. It's all about the production of alternative
energy and green jobs and it is being spearheaded
by the president of the United States.
The federal government is now in the midst of pouring
nearly one trillion dollars into the American economy
in the form of spending and tax cuts to serve as
the central catalyst in the nation's economic recovery.
The New Energy economy will lead the charge and
attempt to double the production of alternative
energy over the next three years as well as build
a smart grid so as to help guarantee economic stability
and the facilitation of more green fuel sources.
"At this particular moment, only government can
provide the short-term boost necessary to lift us
from a recession this deep and severe," President
Obama said in a speech. "To finally spark the creation
of a clean energy economy, we will double the production
of alternative energy in the next three years. We
will modernize more than 75 percent of federal buildings
and improve the energy efficiency of two million
American homes, saving consumers and taxpayers billions
on our energy bills."
It will be a vigorous battle against a recession
that began in December 2007 and one that has been
labeled the nastiest since the Great Depression.
Funds allocated through the stimulus plan are to
be used to modernize the transmission grid and to
develop smart meters. The two steps will then work
to ensure reliability and energy efficiency.
According to the Electric Power Research Institute
in Palo Alto, Calif., deployment of a highly automated
system could take a huge cut out of carbon dioxide
releases while at the same time limit electricity
consumption by reducing sales by 1.2 to 4.3 percent
by 2030. A smart grid can furthermore make possible
greater integration of renewable generation resources
and more deployment of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles.
"Estimates of energy efficiency potential affect
forecasts of electricity demand, and electric utilities
must make prudent investments in generation, transmission,
and distribution infrastructure to reliably and
cost-effectively address this demand," says Arshad
Mansoor, vice president of Power Delivery and Utilization
To be sure, the transformation to a green society
is easier said than done. Consumers are unaccustomed
to real-time pricing that would charge them accordingly
for when they use electricity, and they are largely
unaware of the benefits that a modern grid is said
to provide. To boot: the investments in these various
technologies are costly and the concepts are nebulous
ones to follow.
It all comes atop a series of latent attempts to
resurrect the American economy. All told, this year's
deficit could hit $1 trillion. But President Obama
insists that the need for more stimuli to, in part,
rebuild the nation's energy infrastructure is urgent.
Unemployment now stands at 8.5 percent and some
estimate that it could rise to 10 percent. It's
a daunting task, says the president, but the nation
needs to take "dramatic action."
According to the GridWise Alliance, a coalition
of organizations that advocates a smart grid, a
$16 billion investment in incentives over the next
four years would drive $64 billion toward such projects.
That, in turn, would create about 280,000 new direct
positions across the energy sector. More than 150,000
of these jobs would be created by the end of 2009
and nearly 140,000 positions would become permanent.
The report, authored by information technology
consulting firm KEMA, goes to say that the smart
grid will embody a network of devices that are as
interconnected, automated and interactive as the
Internet. The payback for utilities and consumers
will occur in the form of improved reliability,
reduced operational and maintenance costs and the
avoidance of some new generation capacity.
Such high technology will permit consumers to join
forces with their utilities to control electricity
usage through advanced communication systems while
also allowing the power companies the ability to
isolate power outages and remotely read meters.
But those instruments not only need money, they
also require progressive policies to promote energy
efficiency and to introduce price structures to
consumers -- things that the Federal Energy Regulatory
Commission says could limit the smart grid's potential.
The good news is that the technology is gaining
traction. FERC says that advanced meters make up
4.7 percent of the meter population. That's up from
less than 1 percent in 2006. On the demand response
side, it says that 8 percent of consumers in the
United States are in some kind of demand response
program to control energy usage. Altogether, it
adds that nearly 41,000 megawatts, or 5.8 percent,
of U.S. peak demand is bid into the system in such
a manner. That represents an increase of about 3,400
MW from 2006.
"Demand response is clearly the 'killer application'
for the smart grid," says FERC Commissioner John
Wellinghoff. Demand response allows utilities to
work cooperatively with customers to shed load during
peak electricity usage.
In their book Perfect Power, Robert Galvin and
Kurt Yeager agree, maintaining that major blackouts
could be averted. In fact, a substantial investment
in new transmission technologies would more than
pay for itself. The authors say that it is possible
to build a "perfect electric power system" that
could save the economy nearly $150 billion lost
each year because of electrical outages.
President Obama embraces the same sentiments and
as such, the transition to the New Energy economy
is officially underway. It's all part of the plan
to rebuild America and one that will require an
enduring commitment. If it works, the early 21st
Century will be defined by green energy and next-generation
jobs, all hinged to the smart grid.
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