Obama to pledge $3.4B for ‘smart’ grid

In a press briefing last night, the Obama administration announced plans to reveal 100 smart grid projects across the country later this morning, demonstrating an understanding of the smart grid as an economic and global competitiveness tool for all Americans. The holistic smart grid solutions receiving funding will deliver synergistic reliability, efficiency and clean-energy technologies across the electrical network. As a result, consumers will have the power to manage and control their energy use, we’ll slash our dependence on imported oil and we can add more clean energy sources to the generation mix – all while creating thousands of high value, non-transferable, green-collar jobs.

Through stimulus funding, the government has put smart grid solutions within reach for much of the US, and with today’s announcement, we’ll be one step closer. With $3.4 billion in federal stimulus funding to be announced this morning, plus the $4.7 billion in utility matching funds, we have an $8.1 billion opportunity to transform our nation’s electrical delivery system into a smarter, more automated system that can help alleviate our energy woes. In a press briefing last night, the government announced four early recipients – Florida Power & Light, Baltimore Gas & Electric, Cobb Electric Membership Corp., and San Diego Gas & Electric.

The United States is facing immense energy challenges—both economic and environmental. Spending $200,000 per minute on foreign oil has led to an uneasy sense of energy "insecurity." We are also losing $150 billion per year to power disruptions and outages. In an attempt to cope with climate change, we work to reduce carbon emissions, yet our demand for energy continues to rise, forcing us to rely on carbon-emitting coal plants to generate approximately 50% of our electricity. Rising global energy consumption, expected to triple by 2050, will only compound these problems.

Solving these challenges will require holistic smart grid solutions – including advanced application solutions alongside infrastructure improvements will be critical to delivering the ultimate promise of the smart grid. We applaud the government today for looking beyond the smart meter, and funding projects that are broad in scope, from smart meters to automated substations and advanced transformers.

Today’s announcements revealed plans for 18 million smart meters and 175,000 load management devices to help consumers manage energy usage and save money, 700 automated substations for improved grid efficiency and quality, 200,000 advanced transformers for improved reliability, and more – in grants up to $200 million in size.

At the end of the day, if implemented effectively, smart grid technologies will help reduce consumer energy costs; lower CO2 emissions; and help lessen our dependence on fossil fuels, via the following key deliverables:

1. Increasing the integration of both plug-in hybrid electric vehicles and cleaner energy sources — at both the central and distributed generation levels — helping reduce CO2 emissions and decreasing our dependence on foreign oil. In fact, switching to plug-in hybrids could reduce our dependence on foreign oil by 52%.

2. Increasing the efficiency of electricity delivery to help maximize the use of our natural resources, enabling us to do more with less.

3. Providing consumers and businesses with real-time information about their energy use will empower them to make smarter energy choices and reduce energy costs by proactively managing their energy use. A yearlong DOE study showed that smart grid consumers were able to lower overall consumption by 10% and peak consumption by 15%.

In addition to the efficiency and environmental benefits delivered by smart grid, large-scale investment will also deliver the economic benefits of creating more jobs, and not just infrastructure-build related jobs. The sophisticated technologies embedded in these smart grid solutions will result in an increase in higher value, non-transferable jobs, and the long-term needs of this advanced network will ensure that those jobs exist well into the future.

We truly have the opportunity here in the United States to lead the world by example, and to create a global market for our advanced smart grid solutions. We, as a nation, created the Internet, and today we’re one step closer to creating the energy Internet.