The grants were part of $620 million in awards announced Tuesday in a speech in Columbus, Ohio, by Secretary of Energy Steven Chu.
Most of the technology behind the electricity grid is 100 years old, designed primarily to send a consistent, one-way flow of power from generator to user. But the renewable energy future will mix the steady production of nuclear and gas power with rooftop solar installations that sell power back to the utilities, and arrays of wind turbines whose generation can spike or collapse if the wind power are gusty on any given day.
Smart grids will use computerized meters, wireless communications and powerful information processing systems to manage the two-way flow of electricity, and to handle the substantial variations in generation.
Edison plans to devise a model smart grid that other utilities can mimic. An Edison spokesman made no utility official available to comment on the award, but DOE documents show the utility and its partners will contribute an additional $40.1 million to the project.
SDG&E officials said they wished their application had been successful, but was pleased that Edison, which provides electricity to Riverside and Los Angeles counties, and Pacific Gas & Electric Co., which serves much of Northern California, had both won grants.
"We’re disappointed," said Lee Krevat, director of smart grids for SDG&E. "But Edison is facing many of the same challenges we are. It’s great that we can learn from them whatever they learn. If they hadn’t won, and PG&E hadn’t won, then we would have been really disappointed."
Krevat said SDG&E and its 25 coalition members will still work on projects included in the application they deem a high priority.
"We have a high penetration of rooftop solar," he said. The utility wants to be sure that "if clouds come in, and they suddenly need energy from us, there’s a reliable solution."
SDG&E is also a partner with Edison and PG&E on the power storage grants they won. Edison will install a "utility scale" 8-megawatt lithium-ion battery at their Tehachapi wind farm. The battery will be able to store excess energy produced by the turbines during low-demand periods, and pump it back into the grid during peak demand, or when the turbines aren’t working. The Department of Energy expects the Edison and its coalition to spend an additional $28 million on the project.
PG&E won $26 million to devise a compressed air energy storage system. It and its partners will contribute $356 million to the project.
An Edison International (NYSE:EIX) company, Southern California Edison is one of the nation’s largest electric utilities, serving a population of nearly 14 million via 4.9 million customer accounts in a 50,000-square-mile service area within Central, Coastal and Southern California.