Reid, at energy summit, announces grid plan

This morning in Washington, D.C., Sen. Harry Reid, one of the hosts of the National Clean Energy Project, announced that he’ll introduce a bill this week to tackle a clean energy transmission grid.

Others in attendance included Bill Clinton, Al Gore, energy magnate T. Boone Pickens, congressional leaders and administration officials. The liberal think tank Center for American Progress hosted the summit.

The economic crisis, Reid said, shouldn’t deter the nation from focusing on renewable energy. Here’s what Reid had to say at the gathering, according to his prepared remarks:

“This event follows on the success of our summit last summer in Las Vegas. We have long seen the three-pronged threat caused by our reliance on oil – economic, national security and, of course, environmental. Thanks to the work of many in this room and many others across the country, we can now see the solutions to this crisis as clearly as we see the problem. With a new president and a bipartisan mandate in Congress, as well as among the American people, now is the time to boldly put our knowledge into action.

Our goal must be to use less oil tomorrow than we used today, and even less the day after. We can get there, but only if we make major investments now in clean energy, like natural gas and electric vehicles and much more efficient fleets, and all produced right here in America and with American jobs.

Nevada and other parts of the desert southwest have enough solar energy potential to power our country seven times over. If you combine that potential with the wind from the Great Plains and the hundreds of thousands of megawatts of geothermal energy deep beneath the earth, the whole country could have cost-free fuel for many generations to come.

Innovators and entrepreneurs in every state have already begun to harness all this power. But the field is in its infancy – and it will only mature with significant and sustained support at the federal level. President Obama’s economic recovery plan is a giant step in the right direction. It provides $11 billion for smart grid technology and expanding transmission to renewable rich areas. But we must also focus our energy and investments on planning and siting new transmission and breaking down barriers to a truly national approach.

With that goal in mind, I will introduce a green transmission bill this week on the floor of the United States Senate. This legislation will chart a course to a cleaner, greener and smarter national energy transmission policy without sacrificing reliability or affordability.

My legislation will require the president to designate renewable energy zones with significant clean energy generating potential. Then, a massive planning effort will begin in all the interconnection areas of the country to maximize the use of that renewable potential by building new transmission capacity. If that process falters, then the Federal government would be given clear authority to keep it going and get that new transmission built on schedule.

Everyone in this room recognizes that the heaviest lifting still lies ahead. Some may argue that we should reduce our focus on renewable energy in light of our economic crisis. They have it exactly wrong. Only by making these investments now can we build a new clean energy infrastructure that will create hundreds of thousands of American jobs, lower the energy bills of every single American, and preserve our planet for generations to come.”

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