Live from Washington Innovation Summit – Senator Maria Cantwell

by Braden Kelley

The senator spoke about smart grid technology and how it is top of mind for Obama and even appearing in Super Bowl ads. What does smart grid really mean for us?

Here are my notes and key insights gathered from the Senator’s talk:

Right now people turn on a switch or turn it off and the lack of intelligent power management places an increasing strain on the power system to manage demands. The power meters in our homes were invented before television.

Power outages from shortages cost the country over $100 billion. The demand for power is projected to grow 40% in the next 20 years. Luckily Washington receives 70% of its power from hydropower, but this is projected to decline over time.

We are fortunate to have smart grid related companies like Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories and iTron in Washington state, and utilities like Avista and Puget Sound Energy have been working on smart grid case studies.

Gonzaga and its transmission and distribution energy program is one of only 15 power engineering programs in the country.

One of the best smart grid studies was done by Pacific Northwest Labs. It found that a 10% reduction in power usage was possible without inconveniencing customers. If its approach was applied nationwide, we could spend $70 billion less on electrical transmission and distribution over the next 20 years. Smart grid usage can improve efficiency by up to 30% and enable real-time pricing.

Implementing off-the-shelf energy efficiencies nationwide could offset the incremental demand over the next 20 years by 85%.

Congress has provided $30 Billion of funding for smart grid and advanced battery technology and $20 billion for renewables and efficiencies.

We will be getting a regional demonstration project to help quantify savings, to help prove out smart grid business models, to prove that smart grid technology works, and that it is a smart investment.

A smart grid is an innovation by itself but serves as a bedrock for many future innovations.

The Internet was a $1 trillion opportunity, but Energy possibilities represent a $6 trillion opportunity.

It is important that the Pacific Northwest put forth strong proposals for federal and private funding to take advantage of this opportunity.

What do you think?


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