In 2012, I had the honor of being selected as one of the country’s 75 Smart Grid pioneers by Smart Grid Today.  Thanks to the luck of alphabetical ordering, it just so happens that my name appears on that list immediately before Dr. Ernest Moniz, MIT faculty member and the Obama administration nominee for Secretary of Energy.  In light of Dr. Moniz’s confirmation hearing today, I have three questions (really six with the follow-on questions) that I would like to ask him:

  • If a lot of money is spent modernizing the electric grid (saving consumers money and improving utility operations) but no one hears it, did it make a sound?

Though DOE Recovery Act funding spent over $4 billion on modernizing the grid, state utility commissioners are reporting they aren’t getting data from DOE demonstrating the value and efficiencies that could spur more Smart Grid deployments in their states.  What can the Department do to translate all it has learned from the Smart Grid Investment Grants and Smart Grid Demonstration Projects into actionable information for electricity providers and state utility commissions?

  • Is the R&D effort supporting Smart Grid worth a tax incentive?

The talk of tax reform in DC means that everything is on the chopping block.  As Secretary, would Dr. Moniz go to bat for tax credits that support research innovations for interoperability, embedded intelligence, and cybersecurity in the grid?

  • How can DOE help the Northeast rebuild “smarter” in the wake of Superstorm Sandy?

$60 billion in federal funding is being made available to the states impacted by the storm.  Ironically, this is in the same ballpark as some estimates for the overall economic impact; $30 billion to $50 billion as reported by US News & World Report in November 2012.  In wholly impractical terms the feds can either reimburse everybody who was affected and thus wipe the financial impact of Sandy off the books, or they can improve the resilience of the infrastructure against future storms.  Given that the latter is the most effective use of taxpayer dollars, what suggestions can DOE offer?

Paul Molitor is a national figure in the U.S. Smart Grid effort and the head of communications for the National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) in Rosslyn, VA.


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