Trend: Smart grid technology, designed to increase energy efficiency, received a boost from $3.4 billion in grants from the Obama administration.
The focus is on smart meter installations, including advanced metering infrastructure, customer systems, electric distribution systems, electric transmission systems, equipment manufacturing, and integrated and/or crosscutting systems. Excerpts below.
President Obama traveled to Florida to highlight DOE awards to 100 utilities, equipment manufacturers, cities, systems developers and other recipients. The winners have committed $4.7 billion of their own resources to match the smart grid grants.
The president sketched his vision of a clean-energy future marrying solar panels, advanced storage batteries, plug-in electric hybrid cars, home energy management systems and smart appliances together in a grid studded with new sensors and control devices.
Smart grid technologies will reduce electricity use by more than 4 percent by 2030, saving $20 billion in customer costs that year and cutting greenhouse gas emissions accordingly, the White House said, citing analysis by the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI). Demands for "peak" power on the hottest summer days could drop by 20 percent. Tens of thousands of new jobs will be created, the administration projects. "We're on the cusp of this new energy future," Obama said at a solar energy center in Arcadia, Fla. "In fact, a lot of it is already taking place."
Before the DOE announcement, utilities across the United States had announced plans over the next decade to replace more than 50 million old-model "dumb" electric meters with advanced digital versions. The smart meters will read and report electricity usage and prices at intervals as short as 15 minutes, giving consumers the means of conserving power when it becomes scarcest and most expensive.
The grants will accelerate smart meter installations, said Mark McGranaghan, EPRI's director of distribution research in Knoxville, Tenn. "These awards are designed for deployment, to put things into the field and create jobs." Most of the successful smart meter projects had been in the works, and the grants are saying, "instead of five years, let's make it happen over two."
Last week, the administration finally made good on its promises, announcing an award of $3.4 billion in grant money to 100 cities, utilities, equipment makers, systems developers and other organizations around the country (out of 390 applications). The grants were awarded in six different project areas: advanced metering infrastructure, customer systems, electric distribution systems, electric transmission systems, equipment manufacturing and integrated and/or crosscutting systems.
Ranging in size from just under $400,000 to $200 million, each grant represents only a fraction of the proposal's estimated cost. But in every case, there are matching resource commitments from other sources, bringing the actual fully funded investment from the program to over $8 billion.
The projects are all over the map—both literally and figuratively. Rather than a government handout to a few obvious, entrenched players, the funding will be sprinkled across multicompany collaborations and private/public partnerships.
In particular, the money will buy millions of smart electric meters at a hodgepodge of utilities, pushing new tech into the field and even newer tech out of the lab and into commercial testing. Some awards even fund security research on how to prevent terrorist attacks on this new smart grid.