President Barack Obama has made it clear that transforming the U.S. economy from a fossil fuels-driven to a "green" economy based on domestic, renewable energy sources is a top priority for his administration. The electricity grid is an essential part of this modernization process. The "smart grid" has received considerable attention as well as substantial financing in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. However, electricity transmission and distribution systems remain highly fragmented and regionalized, supported by various owners, regulators, and operators. Major challenges exist around creating the appropriate governance mechanisms to develop our electricity infrastructure.
On September 11, the Brookings Institution’s Energy Security Initiative and Metropolitan Policy Program hosted a discussion on the challenges of modernizing the electricity grid. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Chairman Jon Wellinghoff delivered a keynote address on the federal perspective. Following the chairman’s remarks, Charles Ebinger, senior fellow and director of the Energy Security Initiative, moderated a panel discussion on the governance issues in the electric transmission sector. Lynne Kiesling, senior lecturer at Northwestern University, moderated a panel discussion on the technological implementation and regulatory reforms necessary for the development of a national smart grid.
After each panel, participants took audience questions.