By Yaffa Klugerman
October 28, 2009
President Obama yesterday announced that the federal government will be investing $3.4 billion to help improve the nation's electrical grid--a move that is expected to create tens of thousands of jobs.
Obama made the announcement while standing surrounded by acres of solar panels at Florida Power & Light's new DeSoto Next Generation Solar Energy Center. "Here in this region of Florida, this project will reduce demand for electricity by up to 20 percent during the hottest summer days that stress the grid and power plants," he said. "It will provide smart meters to 2.6 million more customers. And most importantly, it will create thousands of jobs--good jobs, by the way, that can't be outsourced; jobs that will last and jobs that pay a decent wage."
According to a fact sheet from the White House published by the Chicago Sun-Times, some of the new jobs created will include positions for engineering technicians, electricians and equipment installers, IT system designers and cyber security specialists, data entry clerks and database administrators, and business and power system analysts.
The federal funding will help cover the cost of updated transformers and new devices designed to improve the efficiency and reliability of power transmission. The money will also pay for the installation of millions of "smart meters," which convey information between homes and utilities and can be used to shift the electricity load to off-peak times, thereby curtailing the use of expensive auxiliary power plants.
The grid will get "much more than a facelift," noted Carol Browner, Obama's top adviser on climate change and energy issues, who was quoted in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "It's fair to say that the grid is outdated, it's dilapidated. And not only do we need to make the system bigger and add more lines, we need to make it function better and smarter."
The announcement was hailed by companies eager to move forward on grid modernization efforts. "These grants are an important down payment on building a smaller grid and will certainly jump-start both industry and state regulators to deploy smart-grid technologies," said Katherine Hamilton, president of GridWise Alliance, an industry advocacy group, who was quoted by CNET News.
Obama said that the grants have been awarded to 100 utilities and other entities, which have promised to spend $4.7 billion in private money for the upgrades. The largest grants are for about $200 million and the smallest are for less than $10 million.