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'Made in America' - An Analog Policy that Needs to Go Digital


Utility Dive recently published the following contributed article that advocates for American manufacturing of firmware to support modernization of the grid, reduction of carbon emissions and a more resourceful world.

By Tom Deitrich, Itron President & CEO

It has been more than five months since the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill was signed, and many projects across America are just waiting for the green light. The package envisioned a new national smart grid, with $65 billion for modernization and $15 billion for a massive network of electric vehicle (EV) charging stations. We now have the technology, the political will, and the funding — if legal provisions don’t stall these projects before they start.

These investments could not come soon enough. Our grid is in vital need of modernization and upgrades, as we face more extreme weather, increased cybersecurity threats, and escalating climate disruption. These projects are not only shovel-ready, but shovel-worthy — lowering carbon emissions, creating jobs, and spurring economic growth.

The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act has many worthy aims, but also some of the most stringent domestic content requirements. With more than half a million high-skilled jobs tied to the delivery of water and energy to American households, our sector strongly supports Buy America. Domestic content requirements boost American manufacturing and in the long run make supply chains more resilient and enable broader economic growth.

But in the near term, most infrastructure projects will include some foreign components. American industry is still recovering from the post-COVID global supply chain crisis. Lead times for production materials are averaging nearly 26 weeks, with times for many other inputs running in excess of 100 days. Given enough time, the 55% domestic content requirement written into the IIJA is an achievable goal. And yet, the way it is interpreted by federal agencies could delay critical infrastructure upgrades for years — while jeopardizing our carbon reduction aims and threatening existing factory jobs in the USA.