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Smart Grid Collaboration, Outreach Key to Reenergizing U.S., Vermont Law School Study Suggests

February 20, 2012

SOUTH ROYALTON, VT -- Collaboration, clear policies and consumer outreach are fueling the successful implementation of Central Vermont Public Services' smart grid plan, according to results of the first case study in Vermont Law School's national smart grid research project.Image of electrical tower

CVPS, Vermont's largest investor owned utility, this month begins a year-long process of installing smart meters for its customers. According to VLS's case study results:

• Collaboration is arguably the most important lesson that the CVPS study provides. It has made developing and implementing CVPS SmartPower and other utilities' smart grid investments more efficient, cost-effective and technically sound.
• Since 2007, Vermont's Legislature and Public Service Board have been looking to develop smart grid infrastructure and dynamic rate options, which balances flexibility for investments in a rapidly developing field of technology with measures to ensure those investments are prudent.
• CVPS's efforts at consumer outreach and consumer behavior research are laying the groundwork for a smooth transition in its smart grid implementation.

"These results provide interesting lessons for the rest of the country," said Kevin Jones, smart grid project leader for VLS's Institute for Energy and the Environment (IEE). "As this case study demonstrates, smart grid implementation is off to a productive start. Ongoing policy refinements, project development and infrastructure investment will be needed in order to achieve the smart grid's full, long-term potential."

Jones said one area where more work needs to be done is formalizing a customer data privacy policy. The Vermont PSB is reviewing the establishment of privacy principles, which would include a clear utility smart grid privacy policy that would be available to customers. In November, the IEE released a draft model utility smart grid privacy policy.

In 2011, the IEE launched its smart grid research project, which involves case studies of seven utilities in order to recommend best practices that can be replicated nationwide: Commonwealth Edison, Central Vermont Public Service Company, Long Island Power Authority, Pecan Street Project, Sacramento Municipal Utility District, Salt River Project and San Diego Gas and Electric. VLS's final report is due later this year.

The research is designed to help understand which laws and policies will best ensure that a smart grid improves electric reliability, enhances customer value and helps meet the nation's clean energy goals. The Electric Power Research Institute estimates that fully implementing a smart electric grid nationwide will cost $1.3 trillion to $2 trillion, with benefits likely exceeding costs by a factor of three or more.

VLS researchers are studying the legal, policy and regulatory hurdles to upgrading the U.S. electric system with smart grid technology. The U.S. Department of Energy has awarded $3.4 billion in stimulus funds to utilities and other entities nationwide, making the smart grid a key part of the U.S. clean energy agenda.

"While the anticipated benefits of a smart electric grid range from improved reliability to the potential for reduced costs, one of the lesser understood benefits is an improved environment," Jones added. "Studies have estimated that by 2030, a smart grid could reduce carbon emissions as well as energy use by approximately 12 percent."

Read the CVPS case study results. Read more about VLS's Smart Grid Research Project.

VLS is actively participating in the new Center for Energy Transformation and Innovation (CETI). CETI is a partnership between Sandia National Laboratories and a broad array of Vermont stakeholders. CETI supports the development and dissemination of smart grid best practices to move the nation toward a 21st century energy infrastructure.

Kevin Jones, the project's leader, is available to comment at 802.831.1054 or kbjones@vermontlaw.edu.

CONTACT: John Cramer, Associate Director of Media Relations, Vermont Law School
Office: 802.831.1106, cell: 540.798.7099, home: 802.649.2235, jcramer@vermontlaw.edu

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