Act Now to Modernize the Grid

Act Now to Modernize the Grid

This piece was originally published in the September 2016 issue of electroindustry.

Congressman Jerry McNerney (D-CA)

cityscape on the coast, smart energy, smart grid
Over the past decade, we have seen a shift in our nation’s energy and electricity landscape, presenting new technology and new consumer demand challenges. Congress has yet to address these new dynamics or help build a sustainable energy future.

America is now a leading producer of oil and natural gas. At the same time, there has been explosive growth of cleaner, lower carbon energy sources. Solar energy now provides enough power for nearly six million homes, and wind turbines produce enough energy for nearly 18 million homes—together, that’s about five percent of total electricity generated in the United States. This expansion translates to lower costs for producers and consumers and a reduction in greenhouse gases and other pollutants.

jerry-mcnerney
Representative McNerney represents California’s 9th Congressional District.

The electrical grid is evolving in both technology and operational functionality. As an energy engineer, I believe modernization starts with funding innovative research and the development of new technologies that boost reliability and efficiency and promoting the development of better grid protections against cyber threats.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, utilities, public utilities commissions, manufacturers, consumers, and others all embrace new ways of generating and consuming power. There has been tremendous progress and innovation to improve access, reduce costs, and increase electrical use efficiency. We now have high-voltage direct current technology, syncophasers, and smart inverters that have improved transmission responsiveness and efficiency.

While these technologies, as well as demand side innovations, have helped modernize the grid, we still have work before us. We need to continue pursuing modernization strategies to continue to improve grid resilience and efficient while lowering cost and reducing carbon emissions to meet the energy needs of a twenty-first-century America.

This is one reason why I co-founded the bipartisan Grid Innovation Caucus with Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-NC). The caucus advocates for technological innovation, educates members of Congress, and promotes policies that enhance grid operations. It already has worked with its members to have provisions signed into law that establish a chain of command and the creation of a Strategic Transformer Reserve in the case of an natural disasters, cyber attacks, or terrorist attack on the grid to help utilities respond to large scale grid disruptions.

HR 8, which passed the House, contains steps to address our grid vulnerabilities, including the creation of a Department of Energy program to promote cyber-resilient technologies for the grid; smart grid labeling on ENERGY STAR® products, which help consumers make informed electricity use choices; and a statement on grid policy modernization for the future. Congressional action on a broad energy bill is long overdue. We should send a bipartisan bill—void of poison pills—to the president for his signature.

The electric grid requirements will continue to evolve with technology and consumer demand. The primary laws governing our current energy and electricity infrastructure—The Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act and the Federal Power Act—deserve new review to see how we can improve upon fundamental power statutes that have helped spur the development of low-carbon energy sources.

Our energy future requires far-sighted investments to ensure our security. A similar investment in the past, President Eisenhower’s interstate highway system, helped to establish America’s leadership in commerce and created much-needed jobs across the country. The same can occur today through grid modernization.


Representative McNerney represents California’s 9th Congressional District. He is a member of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce and co-founder of the bipartisan Congressional Grid Innovation Caucus.

Read the September 2016 issue of electroindustry.

One thought on “Act Now to Modernize the Grid

  1. It is so nice of Congressman Jerry McNerney to get involved to build a sustainable energy future for California and the Nation, the smart grid with all the related components is our future to reduce all the energy waist and to reduce the carbon foot print which is one of the elements of our global climate issues. One comment, is not to forget the government help on the bill, the much need help for entrepreneurs which are working on the field of reducing electrical energy usage by creating new efficiency ways to utilize the natural energy and to create jobs on their communities as a results of this new technologies, this help is very very hard to reach now by the new entrepreneur business, getting sure of this smart grid bill bring all the knowledge of the engineers and their passion together to see our Country to be the leader on energy renovation y providing the much need tools to keep our technology and it development in our Country and not to be exported, as a consequence of the lack of help, but to allow after the creation and the implementation to be used for all around the globe.
    Having Congressman Jerry McNerney as the promoter of this bill give us (the entrepreneurs) the hope that help is very close, I personally thank you Congressman Jerry McNerney and God bless you.

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