The Greens and the Smart Grid

The Greens and the Smart Grid

At some point in his career Isaac Newton must have worked in politics. Surely that's how he derived his Third Law of Motion, "To every action there is an equal and opposite reaction." In Washington it works this way: As soon as one person proposes a public policy, no matter how beneficial, someone else will inevitably attack it.

I was reminded of this law again yesterday when I learned that even Smart Grid has its detractors. As I've noted in past articles, Smart Grid is a plan to modernize the electrical supply and distribution system by adding monitoring, analysis, control and communication capabilities to increase capacity while reducing energy consumption. The benefits for society are vast — starting with a more effective electrical distribution system, greater energy efficiency, and increased security from natural and man-made threats. Not only does this require investments in new technology and upgraded equipment, new transmission lines are necessary to create a more effective inter-regional grid.

And that's where Newton's Third Law comes in. His "equal and opposite reaction" has arisen in the form of The Wilderness Society. The Society doesn't like the U.S. Energy Department's decisions regarding where to place new transmission lines. So it petitioned the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit to block DOE's designation of new tranmission corridors. Yesterday, Smart Grid Newsletter — a joint effort of DOE, the GridWise Alliance, and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory — allowed the Society to explain itself. In the process, the Society pays plenty of lip service to Smart Grid. For example, the writer maintains that,

To ensure a secure power supply, the United States must design a forward-looking electricity grid.


The Wilderness Society shares the vision of a modern, secure electricity grid for the benefit of future generations.

Glad to hear they appreciate the importance of modernizing the electrical grid. Not enough, however, to keep them out of court. As inevitably occurs when we're talking energy policy — whether it's building new nuclear plants or allowing for new natural gas exploration or siting new transmission lines — America's green police have once again determined that the public good is better served by blocking such progress. It'll be interesting to see if the Society, or any other national or local environmental groups, will ever be able to point to any tract of land that is suitable for new transmission lines.

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