Olympia, Washington [RenewableEnergyAccess.com] Recommendations for Northwest governors and congressional delegates to accelerate regional smart grid growth through the Northwest Smart Energy Initiative, a program of demonstration projects and regulatory reforms, are outlined in “Powering Up the Smart Grid,” a new report from Climate Solutions.According to the report, the “smart grid” uses computing technology to dramatically improve reliability, keep electric bills in check, make power use more efficient, and bring new renewable power online more rapidly. The report notes that the Northwest is already a global leader in this smart energy industry. Regional companies hold a $2 billion share of the smart energy industry’s global $15 billion in annual sales. Northwest utilities and research institutions are also staking out advanced positions in smart grid deployment. Patrick Mazza, author of “Powering Up the Smart Grid,” said “Our economy is going digital while the stress on our electrical power system is growing. The smart grid can meet these challenges while providing substantial economic opportunities to regions and companies that lead in smart grid deployment.” “Without a major national effort, the U.S. economy will decay for lack of proper energy to power it for the potential growth ahead,” said Steve Hauser, executive director of the GridWise Alliance, a national smart grid acceleration effort that includes smart grid leaders such as Areva, General Electric and IBM. Tens if not hundreds of billions of dollars will be invested in the U.S. power grid over coming decades. 60 percent of our energy system’s aging infrastructure will need to be replaced in the next 10 to 15 years. A study shows that the smart grid’s capability to smooth out peak power demands alone could eliminate the need for $46 billion-$117 billion in power plant and power line investments over the next 20 years. The smart grid will also offer new capabilities to bring online varying power flows from wind farms, solar panels and other renewable power sources, and to integrate vast numbers of smallscale localized generators such as fuel cells and microturbines. The diversification of power sources plus the capability to manage end-use demands provide new security against blackouts. A RAND Corporation study found smart grid technologies could reduce power disturbance costs to the U.S. economy by $49 billion per year. The report is available for free download from the following link.