Murkowski Statement at Smart Grid Hearing
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, today gave the following opening statement at a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing on Smart Grid initiatives and technology:
Good morning. Thank you all for being here today. And thank you to Chairman Bingaman for convening this hearing on the timely topic of Smart Grid.
The term “Smart Grid,” like “shovel ready” and “green jobs” is now part of our lexicon. Millions of people saw GE’s Smart Grid commercial during the Superbowl. It seems like everyone is talking about Smart Grid these days.
But are we all talking about the same thing? Some appear to confuse the idea of making our electrical grid “smarter” with making it “bigger.” Smart Grid is not the build out of miles and miles of high voltage transmission lines. Instead, what we’re really talking about is a potential transformation in how we use and deliver electricity.
Congress saw this potential back in 2007 with passage of the Smart Grid provisions in Title XIII of the Energy Independence and Security Act. In that bill, we recognized that our national security efforts must include the modernization of the nation’s electrical infrastructure.
The promises of a smarter electricity grid are many:
Consumers will be able to monitor in real time the amount, price, and even source of the electricity they consume. With two-way grid communication, the dishwasher may choose to run when electricity is less expensive or maybe the washing machine won’t turn on until wind power is available.
Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles will be able to store electricity and a more flexible network should be better able to handle the intermittent nature of renewable resources.
Utilities will be able to locate, isolate and restore power outages remotely and quickly.
At the same time, a smarter grid poses some new challenges, such as:
The lack of an Interoperability Framework – last week, DOE Secretary Chu cited the lack of standards and protocols necessary to allow different systems to communicate with one another as the biggest roadblock to the advancement of Smart Grid technology;
Cyber Security – Smart Grid technologies are supposed to result in a more reliable and secure grid but if cyber security issues are not addressed, we could be making ourselves more vulnerable to cyber attacks.
Public Acceptance – is the average consumer willing to pay the upfront costs of a new system and then respond appropriately to price signals? Or will people view a utility’s ability to reach inside a home to turn down a thermostat as Orwellian?
As we all know, the Stimulus bill provided $4.5 billion in funding for Smart Grid activities. I am concerned with the government’s ability to process this unprecedented amount of money in a meaningful way. How can this funding best be allocated to advance Smart Grid technologies? Without an Interoperability Framework in place before these funds are expended, do we risk making investments in technology that may soon become obsolete?
I’d like to thank all of our witnesses for joining us today. I look forward to hearing your testimony and getting your thoughts on the issues I have outlined. Mr. Chairman, thank you again for convening this important hearing.