Jesse Berst's Global Smart Energy and Michael Butler's Cascadia Capital have assembled this multi-part series where business leaders share their opinions on the future of the smart grid. This sixth installment features Patrick Mazza, Research Director, Climate Solutions.

Seattle-based Climate Solutions is a research and advocacy group focused on accelerating global warming solutions.

Q: What is the most important next step in the development of the smart grid?

A: “With significant funding for smart grid deployment coming through the stimulus package, $4.5 billion in matching funds at a 50 percent cost share, the most important consideration is to make sure the money is spent in the most catalytic way possible. That means more than smart meter projects – it means deployment of full systems that prove the range of smart grid capacities. It is not good enough to say the grid is being made ready for mass-scale demand response or distributed generation interconnection. Projects must actually create a pathway to implement these pieces, as well as plug-in vehicle integration, to show why it is worthwhile to move to smart grid.

Large-scale smart grid demonstrations should be coordinated with mass-deep energy efficiency retrofits that include installation of building intelligence and on-site renewables, construction of new zero-energy buildings that trade energy with the grid and plug-in vehicle network deployments with smart charging. This translates into a high level of coordination between utilities, state regulatory and energy agencies, local governments and the building and vehicle sectors. Local-state public-private partnerships should look to build deployment projects that combine smart grid funds with expenditures and tax incentives provided in the stimulus for energy efficiency, renewables and plug-in. 

Q: What kind of "shovel-ready" jobs can the smart grid produce?

A: Installation of smart grid systems at the distribution level is "shovel-ready." Some transmission projects have been teed up, but for the most part the game is distribution.

Q: What role should the federal government play in this transformation? What role should the states play?

A: The federal government should provide funding and tax incentives, as it has done through the stimulus. Anticipating a second stimulus, a larger funding pool should be set aside. Federal agencies also have a critical role to play in creating interoperability standards through the GridWise Architecture Council. Continuing research and development should be funded in areas such as managing renewables’ variability though demand response. State commissions should make sure regulatory frameworks are opening ways to prove smart grid benefits through regulatory pilots, and they need to provide performance incentives that encourage using the smart grid to promote efficiency and renewables. State energy agencies should spur and participate in large-scale smart grid demonstrations.

(Pictured above Patrick Mazza, Research Director, Climate Solutions.)

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