On April 16, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, on a visit to Jefferson City, Missouri, U.S., with Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, detailed plans by the U.S. Department of Energy to develop a smart, strong and secure electrical grid, which will create new jobs and help deliver reliable power more effectively with less impact on the environment to customers across the nation. As part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the vice president outlined plans to distribute more than US$3.3 billion in smart grid technology development grants and an additional $615 million for smart grid storage, monitoring and technology viability.

“We need an upgraded electrical grid to take full advantage of the vast renewable resources in this country — to take the wind from the Midwest and the sun from the Southwest and power areas across the country,” said Vice President Biden. “By investing in updating the grid now, we will lower utility bills for American families and businesses, lessen our dependence on foreign oil and create good jobs that will drive our economic recovery — a strong return on our investment.”

On the visit to Jefferson City, Secretary Locke also announced plans for a smart grid meeting in Washington, D.C. that he will chair with Energy Secretary Steven Chu. The event, which will take place in early May, will bring together leaders from key stakeholders' organizations, largely from private industry, to begin a critical discussion about developing industrywide standards that will enable the smart grid to become a reality. Additionally, industry leaders at the meeting will be expected to pledge to harmonize industry standards critical to developing the smart grid, commit to a timetable to reach a standards agreement and abide by the standards devised.

The meeting will provide a forum for industry leaders to move toward an industry standards agreement critical to developing the smart grid. Additional meetings of industry staff on May 19-20 are planned to make further progress on a standards agreement.

“A smart electricity grid will revolutionize the way we use energy, but we need standards in place to ensure that all this new technology is compatible and operating at the highest cyber security standards to protect the smart grid from hackers and natural disasters,” Locke said. “The Recovery Act will fund the development of those standards so the exciting technology can finally take off.”