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Smart Grid in America and Europe (Part I)

Similar desires, different approaches.

Fortnightly Magazine - January 2011

new responsibility for smart grid functionality and interoperability under EISA, which extends to distribution, previously under the purview of states only. 43 EISA however doesn’t make smart grid standards mandatory, and for now FERC is satisfied with creating the st andards and allowing the states to implement them. 

American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 : The ARRA provides the most substantial funding for smart grid deployment of R&D projects. The ARRA set aside $3.4 billion for smart grid development, $1 billion to help consumers save energy and cut utility bills, and $2 billion to integrate smart components, such as smart meters, into the grid. 44 As part of determining how the funding will be allocated, the DOE Smart Grid Research and Development Program, within the research and development office of the DOE’s Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability, issued a multi-year program plan (MYPP) for 2010 to 2014. The MYPP identified five R&D topics for federal funding priority: 1) standards and best practices; 2) technology development; 3) modeling; 4) analysis; and 5) evaluation and demonstrations. 45

Although not comprehensive, U.S. laws and regulations like EISA and the FERC Smart Grid Policy create the beginnings of a smart grid legal framework. In contrast, the E.U.’s smart grid legal framework is more country dependent; The 80 percent smart meter penetration by 2020 requirement is one of only a few European-wide legislations so far. By using the stimulus money, the U.S. too has devoted substantial resources to deploy numerous smart grid R&D projects, but unlike the E.U., the U.S. hasn’t followed one set of long-term strategies or plans.

The E.U. has approached smart grid development by creating a cohesive vision, where subsequent planning has followed priorities and goals set by the SmartGrids ETP program in 2005. The U.S. informal meeting of stakeholders and government in 2003 created the Grid 2030 report, but subsequent activities like the EISA, the FERC Smart Grid Policy, and stimulus funding don’t appear to be guided by the 2003 report. Both governments create R&D plans, but with a different organization and focus. For example, the EEGI divides activities into those that affect distribution, transmission, or both. 46 In contrast, the U.S. MYPP identified R&D topics organized by five categories that can be applied to distribution, transmission, or technologies that apply to both: 1) standards and best practices; 2) technology development; 3) modeling; 4) analysis; and 5) evaluation and demonstrations. 47 While the E.U. identifies the areas of the grid that the plan is supposed to affect, the U.S. identifies the tools used to evaluate any grid technology or development. 

This comparison of the overall efforts of the two governments indicates differences in their smart grid deployment approach, which is further explored in “ Smart Grid in America and Europe (Part II) .”



 1. SmartGrids European Tech. Platform, Strategic Deployment Document for Europe’s Electricity Networks of the Future 6 (2010) [hereinafter E.U. SmartGrids SDD].

 2. Office of Elec. Transmission & Distribution, U.S. Dep’t of Energy, Grid 2030: A National Vision for Electricity’s Second 100 Years 17–21 (2003)