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Today in Cleantech

What’s on your reading list for this weekend? Mine includes a few of the heftier reports I haven’t had the time to check out during the week, dealing with the costs and benefits of the smart grid over the long haul, and the near-term impacts of regional grid operation entities on the price of power. The first report comes from the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), and pegs the cost of the smart grid from now til 2030 at $338 billion to $476 billion. That’s up from the $165 billion price tag that EPRI calculated in a 2004 report, mainly because the scope and scale of what’s considered part of the “smart grid” has expanded a lot in the intervening years. Lucky for us, EPRI also says the benefits of building the smart grid will add up to $1.3 trillion to $2 trillion — a figure that adds up grid reliability and security, the ability to integrate lots of the intermittent renewable power sources we’ll need to wean ourselves from coal-fired power, and lower power bills compared to what we’d end up paying for electricity if we didn’t spend on the smart grid. The second report from the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) gets into details (PDF) on how the Independent System Operator (ISO) and Regional Transmission Organization (RTO) entities that manage interstate power transmission for about two-thirds of U.S. power users have helped lower power costs via demand response programs, improved grid reliability and other measures. FERC’s recent ruling on opening demand response assets to energy market pricing could lead to big changes in how these ISOs and RTOs function — I’m curious about how that process will alter the balance of power supply and power demand, and how that might change the prices we all pay for power.