U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Vermont environmental leaders held a news conference today to discuss smart-grid technology that is making Vermont a national leader in developing a smarter, stronger, more efficient and reliable electric system.
"The bottom line is that smart grid offers real benefits for consumers and the environment," said Sanders, a member of both the Senate energy and environment committees.
Vermont received $69 million in federal stimulus funds to modernize its electric transmission system as part of a more than $4 billion national investment in smart grid technology. The digital upgrade to the nation's aging and largely analog electric system already has begun to pay dividends in Vermont. For example, Vermont Electric Cooperative, which already has near-universal smart meter coverage, cut the outage response time in half after Tropical Storm Irene struck the state one year ago.
In the long term, smart-grid technology can cut carbon emissions from electricity use by up to 15 percent a year, according to U.S. Department of Energy study. New digital meters give households and businesses real-time information on their energy use, improving conservation efforts. The smart grid also gives utilities a better idea of energy demand, so unnecessary power generation may be avoided. And a smart grid also means more solar and wind power may be used without sacrificing reliability.
"We have only begun to scratch the surface of the benefits this technology has to offer," said David Hallquist, CEO of the Vermont Electric Cooperative.
Headquartered in Johnson, Vt., the state's third largest electric utility serves consumers in 74 towns in northern Vermont. "On an individual level, consumers are better able to manage electricity consumption. On a utility level, VEC has significantly reduced its number of outages. And on a broader level, smart grid technology is helping us to integrate more renewable energy," Hallquist said.
Also joining Sanders at the news conference at the Vermont Energy Investment Corp. was Scott Johnstone, executive director of the nonprofit organization dedicated to reducing the economic and environmental costs of energy consumption. "VEIC has a 25-year history of supporting and implementing policies, programs, and technologies that will help individuals and businesses reduce their contribution to global climate change," said Johnstone. "Smart grid technology will support consumers in attaining greater use of renewable energy, electric vehicles, conservation, and energy efficiency - all of which can help consumers to reduce their carbon footprint and gain control of their total energy bill."
Paul Burns, executive director of the Vermont Public Interest Research Group, also participated in the news conference. "Vermonters want clean energy and the smart grid will help to make that possible," said Burns. "Going door-to-door throughout the state we've found incredible support for wind, solar and other renewable resources. Smart technology allows those resources to be integrated into the grid while giving consumers the chance to make more responsible energy choices of their own."