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A bipartisan group of U.S. representatives in New Jersey has introduced to Congress the Saving More American Resources Today (SMART) Grid Study Act of 2013, legislation that calls for assessing ways to protect the nation's grid from natural disasters and other threats.

Original bill author Donald M. Payne Jr. and fellow New Jersey Reps. Rob Andrews, Leonard Lance, Frank Pallone, Bill Pascrell and Albio Sires say the bill is in response to the damage Hurricane Sandy caused the state's power grid and critical infrastructure.

“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,” says Payne. “There has also been a significant increase in cyber attacks from outside actors to our critical infrastructure. These disasters, whether manmade 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,” Payne continues. “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.”

According to Payne’s office, the SMART Grid Study Act authorizes the following:

- A $2.1 million comprehensive study by the National Research Council in full cooperation with the U.S. 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.

- 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 U.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.

In addition to support from co-sponsors across the U.S., the bill has garnered praise from the National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA).

“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,” says 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.”




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