Congressional wrangling over the stimulus package helped take the ideas of a national smart grid and utility decoupling out of wonky obscurity, but stopped short of mandating their implementation. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid wants to go further, to bulk up the federal muscle behind a grid buildout. The Nevada senator told a gathering of political, business, energy and labor heavyweights in Washington, D.C., today that he plans to introduce an energy bill late this week that, if passed, would expand government authority for siting transmission lines. It would, he said, put an end to an era in which one state can “hold up forever something that needs to be done for the good of the country.”
More importantly, such a move would make it easier to build infrastructure for carrying energy from places with abundant wind, solar and geothermal energy resources to population centers with higher demand for electricity. He said the bill will be bipartisan, but did not disclose a Republican co-sponsor.
Reid revealed his timeline and scant but important details about the bill at the National Clean Energy Project summit, an event that has in attendance such influential figures as former President Bill Clinton (who called for Congress to pass a federal decoupling mandate), former Vice President and Kleiner Perkins partner Al Gore, Secretary of Energy Steven Chu, energy magnate T. Boone Pickens and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Asked in a press conference about potential resistance to the bill on the part of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners, a group of 253 state regulators, Reid said, “Whatever we pass at a federal level trumps all of that.”
Read More about National Smart Grid Juggernaut Rolls On: Reid to Unveil Energy Bill This Week