Obama Admin Tabs $3 Billion For Smart Grid
President Obama on Tuesday named 100 utility projects that will split $3.4 billion in federal stimulus funding to hasten deployment of the “smart” electric grid designed to cut energy use, reduce blackouts, and utilize solar and wind power, reports Yahoo news. This award, the largest award from the $787 billion stimulus package given in a single day, shows the administration’s commitment to energy conservation and reducing both energy consumption and long-term electrical prices by enhancing the grid’s efficiency.
The grants, which range from $400,000 to $200 million, will go to utilities, manufacturers, cities and other partners in 49 states (Alaska is the one state not receiving any grants). One target of the grant money is smart meters, which enable consumers to communicate with utilities and monitor their energy usage throughout the day. A smart meter allows a homeowner to shift the electricity load to off-peak times, which saves energy and money. The funds will pay for about 18 million meters, a number that represents roughly 13 percent of all electricity meters nationwide. The Obama administration hopes to distribute 40 million smart meters over the next several years.
The smart grid is actually a variety of new technologies that would allow more efficient usage of energy on a local and national scale. A smart grid inside your home might mean home appliances that can communicate with your power meter to determine the most economical times to run. On a community level, the grid might include the creation of a micro-grid that distributes locally produced power to consumers. Although there have been cybersecurity concerns about the construction of the smart grid, experts around the world agree that it is key to energy independence and revitalizing the global economy.
An analysis by the Electric Power Research Institute estimates that smart grid technologies could reduce electricity use by more than four percent by 2030. This translates to a savings of $20.4 billion for businesses and consumers around the country.
Carol Browner, Obama’s top adviser on climate change and energy issues, told reporters that the current grid system was outdated and deteriorating.
“Not only do we need to make the current system bigger and add more watts,” she added, “but we need to make it function better.”
In addition to smart meters, over one million consumers will get in-home displays to allow them to program their big appliances. The projects are expected to lead to over 170,000 smart thermostats as well, according to the White House.
The winning companies have secured an additional $4.7 billion in private money to match their government grants, creating $8.1 billion in total investment in the smart grid.