DOE doles out smart grid stimulus funding

To the applause of many key stakeholders, the Department of Energy will today unveil the recipients of $3.4 billion in stimulus grants for 100 smart grid projects. The grants will range from $400,000 to $200 million to fund 25 large and 75 small utility and state projects across 49 states. The money is meant to enable a complete grid overhaul, as well as create tens of thousands of jobs.

Today’s $3.4 billion is the DOE’s largest award ever made in a single day from the $787 billion stimulus package, but it’s also just the start. The DOE anticipates total investment in smart grid projects to top $8.1 billion when public funding is matched by the private sector. In total, it had 400 applicants to its smart grid program.

Given the expense of overhauling the nation’s electric grid, government funding is a necessary requirement for many utilities to get started, but it has also slowed down the movement as a lot of utilities waited to see if they would be amongst the 100 to receive funding. By providing the capital for upfront expenses, but not operating expenses, smart grid stimulus funds have also had the result of keeping telcos out of the smart grid opportunity, according to some. There are a lot of promises attached to today’s awards, so there are - potentially - also a lot more opportunities for multiple players, including broadband and wireless providers, to play a role. In addition to job creation, here’s what the $3.4 billion will go to:

• Make the grid more reliable and reduce power outages that cost American consumers $150 billion per year
• Install more than 850 sensors for better grid monitoring and the incorporation of renewable energy across the entire electric grid
• Install more than 200,000 smart transformers
• Install nearly 700 automated substations
• Improve outage detection and enable faster response time if service restoration becomes necessary
• Install more than 40 million smart meters
• Install more than one million in-home displays, 170,000 smart thermostats and 175,000 load control devices
• Achieve 20% more energy from renewable sources by 2020
• Reduce peak electricity demand by more than 1400 MW, saving ratepayers more than $1.5 billion

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