Regionalizing Smart Energy

Regional Energy Initiatives Emerge

Published In: Intelligent Utility Magazine January/February 2010

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THE AMERICAN RECOVERY AND REINVESTMENT ACT (ARRA) has placed an unprecedented focus on state and local energy issues. With half of the approximately $580 billion in ARRA funding having been pegged for states and localities, those efforts that, over time, best pool and manage regional resources will charge ahead of the pack to fruition. That all-important word - collaboration - sets the stage for successful working relationships.

Earlier this year, prior to the first smart grid stimulus awards being granted, Carl Imhoff, the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory's manager of the electrical energy sector, spoke to Intelligent Utility about the importance of stimulus funding in the electricity sector. ''It's going to be an important stimulus to help get the vendor community, the utilities, the regulators and the consumer engaged, and to pick up the pace in this transformation, and it will have some important, lasting benefits,'' he predicted.

Regional energy initiatives are wide-ranging in scope and variety - building smart grids, starting stimulus-related projects, improving transportation, developing renewable resources - and each comes with its own challenges and opportunities. The regions that best pool and manage resources are the ones that, in the end, will see the most short- and long-term gain in job creation, customer satisfaction and technology investment.

In our look at three regions of the United States - the Northeast, the Southeast and the Southwest - we examined projects and initiatives with the following perspectives in mind:

  • Preparing the workforce. How do you build a workforce that is capable of supporting regional energy initiatives in the short term and sustaining them in the long term?
  • Engaging the consumer. How do you engage and prepare customers for change? how do you get consumers to buy into the end goals of these initiatives?
  • Information technology trends. What are the major technology trends and how will they impact how energy is produced and consumed?
  • Technology investments. How do you ensure that technologies you invest in today work both today and in the future?
  • Navigating public policy. What will be the balance in terms of state versus federal impact on these initiatives? how do you navigate local policy to ensure these initiatives are successful?

Each of the distinct new projects being launched within the energy sector requires participation from more than just the utilities to succeed. From research and development organizations and solutions providers to state and local governments and regulatory bodies, from energy interest groups to workforce development agencies and educators, we're looking at a much broader group of interested stakeholders than ever before.

Technology is one of the key drivers in the development of regional energy initiatives, and the vendor-client partnership is more important than ever.

Change is at hand; transformation is nigh. In the following three articles, we delve into projects and initiatives that keep the future directly in their sights, and we explore with a public policy expert the issues that still need to be broached.

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