Sustainability Matters: National Competitiveness and Policy Frameworks for the SmartGrid

I recently wrote about the SmartGrid. Did you know the US is not the only country planning a SmartGrid? The European Union (EU) is also planning a SmartGrid. In fact, the European Commission, the executive branch of the EU, is taking some very important steps to update its electrical transmission and distribution systems. The European Commission sponsors the European Technology Platform for the Electricity Networks of the Future (ETPENF) and leading investors in ten EU member countries sponsor the Desertec Foundation.

When it comes to the production, transmission and distribution of electricity, sustainability matters. ETPENF aims to increase the efficiency, safety and reliability of EU transmission and distribution systems. Efficient, safe and reliable electrical systems means better managed systems. Desertec plans to harvest wind and solar energy from the deserts of North Africa for transmission and distribution to the EU. And for tomorrow, sustainability will require well managed electrical transmission and distribution systems supplied by renewable resources.

A nation’s abililty to produce, transmit and distribute electricity has become recognized as part of its global competitiveness. You might remember I previously wrote about the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) Global Competitiveness Report (GCR) and Global Information Technology Report (GITR). Both the GCR and GITR include electricity supply in their assessments. GCR in Institutions, Infrastructure where the US ranks 16th for quality and the GITR in Environment, Infrastructure where the US ranks 8th for production.

In July the WEF in partnership with Accenture released Accelerating SmartGrid Investments, a new report that nicely defines the SmartGrid and discusses barriers to implementation and their solutions. The report indicates that electricity production, transmission and distribution require better alignment of regulatory and policy frameworks. Today, the regulatory environment lacks incentives for private sector investment in carbon capture, reliability and security on electrical grids. Tomorrow, the regulatory environment will need to reward risk for investment in emerging technologies that help make the grid smart and distribute that risk among producers and consumers. SmartGrid investments under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act help to reduce that risk.

Cities will serve as as catalysts for SmartGrid investments too: Boulder, Colorado and Austin, Texas are already smart grid cities. And GSA’s Public Building Service Office of Sustainable Design leads Federal agencies with investments in high performance green buildings that meet the LEED standard and incorporate sustainable design into Federal workplaces because Sustainability Matters.