Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Waxman-Markey: electric cars, smart grids, rising I.Q.

The Waxman-Markey energy bill would put the power of the federal government behind electric vehicles, in part by requiring utilities to begin planning how to recharge them.

Hawai'i is already making some moves on the electric vehicle front, including discussions with Project Better Place, which envisions a major move with plenty of recharging stations powered by renewable energy.

The bill, as passed by the U.S. House, concludes that electric cars are coming, and it requires utilities to make plans for such things as home charging, fast charging, electric filling stations and so forth.

New power facilities must be able to handle all the different models of electric cars.

This is the fourth in RaisingIslands' series on what's in the legislation, which is alternatively called Waxman-Markey, HR2454, the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009, or ACES. The bill is now being considered by the Senate.

One neat feature, which requires a smart grid, is for every charging station to recognize your car. This way, you'd be properly billed wherever you fill up. And you'd be credited any time the utility needed to borrow some power from your battery bank.

The bill envisions federal financial help for the establishment of pilot or demonstration grids as well as aid for electric vehicle manufacturers.

In other transportation arenas, the bill would require an “open fuel standard,” which says that when car companies build liquid fuel cars, they make sure they can use a range of liquid fuels—including gasoline, but also methanol and ethanol.

There's the famous “cash for clunkers” program, which would let auto buyers get a credit on a new fuel efficient car if they turn in an old inefficient car for disposal. Vouchers for the trade-in would be worth $3,500, or up to $4,500 if the new car is dramatically more fuel efficient than the one being junked.

It would have states establish offices to manage emissions allowances. The offices go by the acronym SEED, for State Energy and Environmental Development Accounts.

To support state energy programs, the bill calls for the federal government to issue emission allowances to states, based on population and energy use. The money would be used to support efficiency and renewable energy programs.


The nation's utility grids would get lots smarter under Waxman-Markey. Most folks think of the power grid as a one-way thing. The utility makes electricity over there, ships it one-way over wires, and you use it over here.

The term “Smart Grid” is evolving, but in essence, it means that both information and power move across the grid.

Power can go both ways—you can produce and ship it to neighbors, or you can use it, seamlessly. Meanwhile, the utility can readily determine who's using power when, and may even be able to manage systems in homes. As an example, in a crisis, instead of having to crash the system in case of a spike in load, the utility could quickly turn off all the water heaters, creating an immediate drop in load.

Waxman-Markey not only supports smart grids, but supports the development of products that are “smart appliances” and can talk to the grid. There would be rebates and other incentives to move these products into American homes.

An intelligent grid, in theory, is one capable of handling a range of kinds of energy generations, including intermittent sources like wind and solar photovoltaic. Waxman-Markey strongly supports those kinds of renewable energy developments.

© Jan TenBruggencate 2009

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