Vermont Law School,The United States needs unprecedented collaboration among electric utilities, government, industry and academia to create a smart grid with clear policies, empowered customers, demonstrated cost savings and a greener environment, according to early results in Vermont Law School’s national smart grid research project. Researchers at VLS’s Institute for Energy and the Environment are studying the legal, policy and regulatory hurdles to upgrading the US electric system with smart grid technology. The federal government has awarded $3.4 billion in stimulus funds to utilities and other entities, making the smart grid a key part of the US clean energy agenda. Vermont, California, Texas and a handful of other states have taken the lead in finding a well-balanced approach to demonstrating and implementing a smart grid system. VLS is conducting case studies of seven diverse utilities across the country 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 isn’t due until 2012, but the study’s early results suggest: Clear state policies will speed smart grid results: California and other states that have set clear policies are moving steadily toward their goals rather than getting bogged down in debate over what the goals should be.Statewide collaboration can spur progress and innovation: Unprecedented collaboration among Vermont’s utilities, government, industry and academia has secured federal stimulus money for the rollout out of a statewide smart grid and broadband system. The unique linking of broadband for underserved areas and a smart grid communications network is achieving state policy objectives with noteworthy efficiency.Delivering smarter rates: The Salt River Project’s success with time-of-use rates and customer pre-pay service offers clear promise for voluntary dynamic pricing. The project’s pre-pay program experience’giving customers timely information about their electric usage and letting them control their consumption’has resulted in satisfied customers and a 12 percent drop in power use.Demonstrating the smart grid’s future: The Pecan Street Project’s focus on how a smart grid can provide value to customers and the environment demonstrates the new technology’s end-use potential.Uncertainty will impede the smart grid: Without clear cost recovery policies for utilities, the smart’s grid’s reliability and environmental benefits won’t be fully realized. VLS’s final report will address legal, regulatory, structural and other barriers, including privacy concerns; policy requirements; energy efficiency and demand response; distributed generation and storage; electric vehicle integration; and distribution automation. More information about VLS’s Smart Grid Research Project is available at: www.VermontLaw.edu/smartgrid(link is external)Vermont Law School, a private, independent institution, has the top-ranked environmental law program and one of the top-ranked clinical training programs in the nation, according to U.S.News & World Report. VLS offers a Juris Doctor curriculum that emphasizes public service, a Master of Environmental Law and Policy degree and two post-JD degrees, the Master of Laws in Environmental Law and the LLM in American Legal Studies (for foreign-trained lawyers). The school features innovative experiential programs and is home to the Environmental Law Center and the South Royalton Legal Clinic. For more information, visit www.vermontlaw.edu(link is external).