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Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Vermont smart grid stakeholders held a news conference at Vermont Energy Investment Corp.'s Burlington headquarters yesterday to discuss smart grid technology and its benefits to the state.

"The bottom line is that smart grid offers real benefits for consumers and the environment," said Sanders, a member of both the Senate energy and environment committees.

Vermont received $69 million in federal stimulus funds to modernize its electric transmission system as part of a more than $4 billion national investment in smart grid technology. According to Sanders’ office, the digital upgrade to the nation's aging and largely analog electric system already has begun to pay dividends in Vermont. For example, the Vermont Electric Cooperative (VEC), which already has near-universal smart meter coverage, cut the outage response time in half after Tropical Storm Irene struck the state one year ago.

New digital meters give households and businesses real-time information on their energy use, improving conservation efforts. The smart grid also gives utilities a better idea of energy demand, so unnecessary power generation may be avoided.

"We have only begun to scratch the surface of the benefits this technology has to offer," said David Hallquist, CEO of the VEC. "On an individual level, consumers are better able to manage electricity consumption. On a utility level, VEC has significantly reduced its number of outages. And on a broader level, smart grid technology is helping us to integrate more renewable energy."

Paul Burns, executive director of the Vermont Public Interest Research Group, also participated in the news conference. "Vermonters want clean energy, and the smart grid will help to make that possible," said Burns. "Going door-to-door throughout the state, we've found incredible support for wind, solar and other renewable resources. Smart technology allows those resources to be integrated into the grid while giving consumers the chance to make more responsible energy choices of their own."


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