6 NJ Lawmakers Introduce Bipartisan Smart Grid Bill

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Six New Jersey Congressional representatives introduced a bipartisan bill, the Saving More American Resources Today (SMART) Grid Study Act of 2013, legislation in response to the incredible damage Hurricane Sandy caused New Jersey’s power grid and critical infrastructure.

Congressmen Donald M. Payne, Jr. (D-NJ-10), Rob Andrews (D-NJ-01), Leonard Lance (R-NJ-07), Frank Pallone (D-NJ-06), Bill Pascrell (D-NJ-09), and Albio Sires (D-NJ-08) are among 24 original co-sponsors of the proposed legislation.

“We know that natural disasters can wreak havoc on our power systems, as we saw many people in my district were without power for nearly two weeks after Hurricane Sandy,” said Payne, ranking member of the Committee on Homeland Security, Subcommittee on Emergency Preparedness, Response, and Communications. “There has also been a significant increase in cyber attacks from outside actors to our critical infrastructure. These disasters, whether man-made or by Mother Nature, are a drain on our economy and make us vulnerable to potentially more devastating attacks. Clearly, our electric grid needs an upgrade. That’s why I am pleased to be working across the aisle in taking the first step toward preventing against another Sandy-like disaster to our electric grid and making New Jersey more secure in the process.”

“Congressman Payne recognizes the need to prepare for the next disaster, whether that is another major storm or a cyber-attack, and that Smart Grid technologies are an essential part of the effort,” said NEMA President and CEO Evan R. Gaddis. “NEMA supports the Smart Grid Study Act as a way to identify the myriad benefits of the Smart Grid in terms of safety, efficiency, reliability, resilience and security.”

“I applaud my friend and colleague Congressman Payne for his leadership on this important public safety issue,” said Lance, a member of the House Communications and Technology Subcommittee. “The study of Smart Grid technology is an important step toward determining how we can better protect our critical infrastructure from the dangers of natural disasters and malicious cyber attacks. During the devastation of Hurricane Sandy we witnessed first-hand the tremendous safety and economic consequences of a power grid failure so it is important that we examine ways to make our grid more resilient and secure.”

“The SMART Grid Study Act acknowledges the immense need to strengthen and evolve our power grid,” Andrews said. “Our country needs infrastructure that can withstand natural disasters like Superstorm Sandy, and this act will help identify the needed innovations.”

“Storms like Sandy are becoming more frequent, and it’s important to use our experience from this disaster to better prepare for those in the future. Taking these necessary steps to update and strengthen our power grid could save lives next time a storm hits,” said Pallone. “This bill is a wise investment, and it will benefit the economy and many future victims of natural disasters.”

The SMART Grid Study Act authorizes:

  • A $2.1 million comprehensive study by the National Research Council in full cooperation with the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Energy, and other government agencies, paid for by amounts appropriated to the Department of Homeland Security for the fiscal year that this bill is enacted, resulting in zero additional costs.
  • A comprehensive assessment of actions necessary to expand and strengthen the capabilities of the electrical power system to prepare for, respond to, mitigate, and recover from a natural disaster or cyber attacks.
  • Assess the options for improving the Nation’s ability to expand and strengthen the capabilities of the Nation’s power grid, including estimation of the cost, time scale for implementation, and identification of the scale and scope of any potential significant health and environmental impacts to fully upgrading to a smart grid system.
  • The study of the grid’s ability to adapt to the changing patterns of demand for electricity, the ability of the grid to store and transfer power across energy sectors and geographic regions, and the ability of the grid to recover from disruptions such as natural disasters and cyber attacks.
  • Identify the barriers to realizing the options and barriers to upgrading fully to a smart grid system, including suggested actions, priorities, incentives, and possible legislative and executive actions.
  • Assess the ability of the grid to integrate existing and future infrastructure, including utilities, telecommunications lines, highways, and other critical infrastructure.

The study would be the first step to improving and upgrading the country’s electric grid, making it smarter with the ability to adapt to threats. Following Hurricane Sandy, Congress appropriated $50 billion for recovery efforts. Recently, it has been estimated that utility companies in New Jersey will have to spend more than $1.1 billion to recover from Hurricane Sandy, causing an inevitable increase in energy bills to consumers. This bill will examine steps that can be taken right away to prevent the damages caused by such disasters and mitigate the astronomical costs that consistently accrue on the backend of a disaster.

(An earlier version of this story incorrectly included Rep. Chris Smith as one of this bill’s sponsors.)

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