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USDA Crucial to Electric Grid Expansion

USDA Crucial to Electric Grid Expansion
Administration announces energy initiatives.

The Obama Administration has announced Grid Modernization Initiatives designed to accelerate the modernization of the Nation's electric infrastructure, bolster electric-grid innovation and advance a clean energy economy. These initiatives will facilitate the integration of renewable sources of electricity into the grid; accommodate a growing number of electric vehicles on America's roads; help avoid blackouts and restore power quicker when outages occur; and reduce the need for new power plants.

The White House has also released several goals set by the Cabinet-level National Science and Technology Council. The goals are: better alignment of economic incentives to boost development and deployment of smart-grid technologies; a greater focus on standards and interoperability to enable greater innovation; empowerment of consumers with enhanced information to save energy, ensure privacy, and shrink bills; and improved grid security and resilience.

Among the public- and private-sector initiatives announced are the launch of Grid 21, a private sector initiative to promote consumer-friendly innovations; focus on improving consumer access to their own energy information; continue working with states and stakeholders, including an initiative to share lessons learned. It also would form a Renewable Energy Rapid Response Team co-led by the White House Council on Environmental Quality, the Department of the Interior and the Department of Energy to improve Federal coordination.

Part of the administrations announced energy initiatives, key to rural America, is USDA's goal to invest $250 million in smart grid equipment deployment over the next 12 months. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says through the use of modern technology we can improve the efficiency of distribution, increase reliability, and win the future through innovation.

Proponents say smart grid technologies give consumers greater control over their electric costs and help utilities efficiently manage power generation and delivery. Also, smart grid investments make it possible to balance intermittent sources of power, like wind and solar, with other fuels.

A smart grid also enables greater use of demand side management tools to save energy. Consumers and electric utilities in Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Montana, North Carolina, Tennessee, North Dakota, Virginia, West Virginia and Washington State will receive a share of the federal funding, contingent upon the borrower meeting the terms of the loan agreement.

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