Obama Announces $100 Million for Smart Grid

U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu announced that the Department of Energy is announcing award selections for nearly $100 million for 54 smart grid workforce training programs that will help prepare the next generation of workers in the utility and electrical manufacturing industries. These projects will leverage more than $95 million in funding from community colleges, universities, utilities and manufacturers to develop and implement training programs. The selectees estimate that the programs will train approximately 30,000 Americans. These workers will help to modernize the nation’s electrical grid and implement smart grid technologies in communities across the country.

Secretary Chu made the announcement while visiting a Pepco engineering and service center in Rockville, Maryland that is receiving $4.4 million in funding that the company estimates will train 700 new and existing employees. This funding is the latest investment by the Obama Administration to develop the smart grid and builds on the more than $4 billion in Recovery Act funding for smart grid deployment and demonstration projects nationally.

“Building and operating smart grid infrastructure will put tens of thousands of Americans to work,” said Secretary Chu. “Today’s investment will help ensure that we have the workforce in place to meet this need. This is a great opportunity for workers to upgrade their skills and earn more, or for laid off workers from other industries to start fresh in a new and growing field.”

The programs will focus on training activities that support electricians, line workers, technicians, system operators, power system engineers, cyber security specialists and transmission planners. The selections include support to develop and deploy training programs broadly as well as to conduct actual personnel training for current and future employees. Workers will receive training on the transmission and distribution systems as well as new intelligent grid systems, such as smart meters, phasor measurement sensors and advanced communication networks.

Today’s award selections support two types of workforce training initiatives:

* Developing and Enhancing Workforce Training Programs for the Electric Power Sector (Topic A) – 33 projects have been selected to receive $41.6 million in Recovery Act funds for the development of new training programs, strategies and curricula related to the electric power sector and the smart grid. These new programs include projects at universities, community colleges and technical schools that will help serve as models for training or retraining workers across the country. The awards also include support for the Strategic Training and Education in Power Systems (STEPS) initiative, which will develop cross-disciplinary electric power system programs at the university and college level.

* Smart Grid Workforce Training (Topic B) – 21 projects have been selected to receive $57.7 million in Recovery Act funds to conduct workforce training programs for new hires—including displaced workers and military veterans–and retraining programs for electric utility workers and electrical equipment manufacturers to further enhance their knowledge of smart grid technologies and their implementation. These projects will help ensure utilities and manufacturers have the necessary trained workforce to support the ongoing smart grid deployment projects, including Smart Grid Investment Grants and Demonstration Projects funded under the Recovery Act.