Wyden vows committee oversight, tax incentives to advance smart grid

Source: Katherine Ling, E&E reporter • Posted: Friday, March 22, 2013

Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chairman Ron Wyden promised today to do everything he can to move the government’s “clumsy … machinery” to make the U.S. electric grid a smart grid.

The Oregon Democrat said he is planning to hold oversight hearings with federal agencies responsible for building out the smart grid to understand whether they are working on all angles to facilitate a transition to a digitized grid, especially on the consumer end.

In addition, he said he’s working on a tax reform measure aimed at achieving “neutrality and parity” for all energy technologies that could strip tax incentives for the oil and nuclear industries. Technological parity, he said, would help newcomers such as energy storage, which is key for introducing more renewable energy and demand response to supply electricity.

“Modernization of the country’s electric system is under way. Are we going to allow that momentum to accelerate or just play nice and think it is going to happen by osmosis?” Wyden told the Edison Foundation’s “Powering the People” conference in Washington, D.C. “The Recovery Act certainly helped and promoted some innovation. … The question is now can we mobilize and make sure that the private sector, utilities, regulators, financial community and all those that helped us get us to where we are today reach the next level?”

He promised to build off the tax reform bill he introduced last spring with Sen. Dan Coats (R-Ind.) (E&E Daily, Nov. 5, 2012).

Wyden also said he would ask the Energy Department about making more data from the administration’s stimulus investment in smart grid projects available to utilities. What it comes down to, Wyden said, is no longer just basing policies and direction on energy production but thinking about consumers and their interaction with energy as well.

“What has been missing and what I am going to put on the radar every step of the way … is the consumer is the key here,” Wyden said. “They can no longer be an afterthought in the debate of the future.