U.S. eyes launching international entity for next-generation power grid

U.S. eyes launching international entity for next-generation power grid

Jul 12, 2010 - The Associated Press

The administration of U.S. President Barack Obama is planning to launch an international entity to be tasked with developing a smart grid, a next-generation power transmission network, U.S. government sources said Friday.

With the launch of the envisioned international body, the U.S. government aims to expand the energy market through smart grid standardization and take the lead in the new energy business, the sources said.

The Obama administration, which aims to boost demand and create jobs by increasing investment in the energy sector, has placed a high priority on promoting the new smart grid.

According to the sources, the United States plans to announce the setup of the International Smart Grid Action Network, or ISGAN, when the country hosts the first ministerial meeting on clean energy in Washington on July 19-20. The United States and other relevant countries are in final talks for the arrangement, the sources added.

In addition to the United States, South Korea and Italy are also expected to become core members of the organization, and they will work closely with related international organizations, such as the International Energy Agency and the International Organization for Standardization, to draw up concrete action plans, the sources said.

In South Korea, the government and the private sector are working together to promote clean energy, centering on nuclear energy.

Italy has succeeded in the widespread use of a smart meter, a next-generation electrical device to gauge electrical consumption.

ISGAN is basically a framework for high-level coordination among governments on a voluntary basis to speed up the global development of smart grids.

"We anticipate broad membership among major economies and other smart grid innovators. Membership is open to interested national-level governments," said one of the sources. "They can choose to participate in specific ISGAN activities on a voluntary basis where they see added-value for themselves, taking into account their national circumstances."

Japan is also considering taking part in the new organization.

ISGAN is expected to be launched with an initial annual budget of some $8 million and each participant country will finance the expense.

Under the organization, working panels will be created in four areas, such as the promotion of international standardization and research and development of new technology, the sources said.

A smart grid, which combines digital technology with the traditional power grid, is a power transmission and distribution network able to deal with fluctuations in current generated from renewable energy.

It enables the use of "smart meters" that allow energy companies and consumers to monitor their energy consumption more closely.

It is also increasingly seen by governments as a way to manage electricity use more efficiently to tackle global warming.

The initiative is in line with Obama's announcement last year for a $3.4 billion plan in the form of government grants to help build a smart electricity grid.

A recent U.S. Energy report suggests that 100 percent penetration of smart grid technology in the United States could lead to an 18 percent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions by 2030 in the country.