|'Smart grid' presents great promise,complications|
|Written by Marjorie Holt|
|Monday, April 27 2009|
Tribune Washington Bureau
April 26, 2009
One warm August afternoon in 2003, a power failure originating in Ohio coursed through the northeastern section of the electrical grid, sparking the nation's largest blackout ever and leaving millions in eight states without air conditioning, traffic lights or cell phone service.
A "smart grid" might have averted a shutdown that cost an estimated $6 billion.
That new grid - a digital network allowing utilities, consumers and alternative sources of renewable energy to "talk" to one another - could steer electricity to where it is needed most, avert cascading energy bottlenecks and promote power from alternative sources.
President Barack Obama has made the smart grid a major plank of his "rebuilding America" plan, viewing it as a way not only to eliminate blackouts and power failures, but also to create new jobs and cut greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming.
In the economic stimulus act that the president signed in February, Congress allocated $4.5 billion for smart-grid investments, a thin slice of the $38.7 billion that the package funneled to the Department of Energy.
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