Coalition Spurs Congressional Blackout Debate

The Sustainable Energy Coalition recently forwarded a short list of proposed questions to be asked of witnesses by members of Congress participating in the House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing scheduled for September 3-4 to investigate the recent Northeast blackout.

Washington D.C. – September 3, 2003 [] The questions seek to elicit the witnesses’ views on the role that could be played by greater reliance on energy efficiency, renewable energy, and distributed generation technologies in reducing the chance of future, similar disruptions of the nation’s electricity supplies. The Sustainable Energy Coalition is a coalition of 54 national and state business, environmental, consumer, and energy policy organizations that collectively represent nearly 4,000 companies, municipal utilities, and community organizations. Founded in 1992, the Sustainable Energy Coalition works to promote energy efficiency and increased use of renewable energy technologies. The text of the Coalition’s proposed questions follows: 1) It seems that a centralized grid, depending on just a few deliverable fuels, is inherently vulnerable to disruptions like these. Some steps may need to be taken towards increased energy efficiency decentralized generation and renewable energy technologies as part of the solution here. In your view, what are the best measures that we could take in the near term to promote such technologies? 2) To what degree are transmission problems due to increasing electricity demand and what amount of this demand can be shaved through cost-effective investments in energy efficiency? 3) What policies are needed to facilitate greater near-term construction of, and reliance on, distributed renewable energy systems for electricity production at the consumer end, augmenting power at distribution lines and substations, and dispersed along transmission corridors? 4) What combination of decentralized renewable energy and energy-efficient technologies would be best suited for ensuring that vital public facilities such as hospitals are able to continue to operate should there be future disruptions of the central electrical power supply? 5) What would be the relative financial, political, social, homeland security, energy, and environmental costs of investing in upgrading the nation’s transmission system to meet projected increases in central-station electricity production versus investing in energy efficiency to reduce electricity demand and/or distributed renewable energy technologies that relieve pressure on the transmission system? 6) What mix of central station transmission, distributed renewable energy, and energy efficiency investments would be most cost-effective and best provide a reliable electrical system that would be able to withstand future disruptions — whether accidental or intentional? 7) Given that only three percent of our electricity comes from oil, it seems strange that gasoline prices have escalated whenever there is an electricity crisis. Are the two connected in a way we don’t realize?
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