On January 9, President Obama announced the launch of the federal government’s first Quadrennial Energy Review (QER) process, fulfilling a commitment contained in his 2013 Climate Action Plan. While we face many important energy challenges, Mr. Obama chose to focus the initial QER on our national infrastructure for transporting, transmitting, and delivering energy.
Why? Because so many of our nation’s goals—combating climate change, reducing energy imports, expanding economic growth, increasing disaster resilience, securing critical infrastructures, strengthening cyber security, and protecting the environment—all hinge on having an energy delivery infrastructure that is reliable, secure, affordable, and resilient.
- Want a clean energy economy? You’re not going to get one without a modern electric grid that can accommodate distributed renewable resources.
- Want a clean environment? A modern grid reduces the need for new power plants by employing demand response that provides economic incentives for customers to curtail peak loads.
- Want to reduce disaster risks for businesses and communities? A resilient and reliable grid is indispensable because all critical sectors rely on the power grid to deliver their essential services.
President Obama put it best: “Our current infrastructure is increasingly challenged by transformations in energy supply, markets, and patterns of end use; issues of aging and capacity; impacts of climate change; and cyber and physical threats. Any vulnerability in this infrastructure may be exacerbated by the increasing interdependencies of energy systems with water, telecommunications, transportation, and emergency response systems.”
By focusing the first installment of the QER on the nation’s energy delivery infrastructure, the White House recognizes the need to modernize and protect the power grid (with 200,000 miles of high-voltage transmission lines, 2.2 million miles of local distribution circuits); the 300,000 miles of transmission pipelines; and the hundreds of processing plants and underground storage facilities that make up our natural gas infrastructure.
DOE investments in grid modernization are beginning to pay off. Customers in Pepco’s Maryland service area received over $3.4 million in bill credits last summer and helped reduce peak load by 2.3 million kilowatt hours (kWh). The DOE Smart Grid project at Southern Company helped to avoid more than 84,900 truck trips for service calls, totaling more than 945,000 saved miles, through September 2013. The company has also seen a reduction in more than 6,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions, including generation reduction, and more than $5 million in costs have been avoided as a result of the DOE grant.
The QER Task Force will be co-chaired by the Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy and the Director of the Domestic Policy Council, and will include the heads of 22 federal agencies. The Task Force will prepare a report within one year that: (a) recommends federal energy policy; (b) reviews existing executive and legislative actions, and recommends additional actions as appropriate; (c) recommends priorities for research, development, and demonstration programs to support key energy-innovation goals; and (d) identifies analytical tools and data to support further policy development and implementation.