Thursday, October 29, 2009

N.C. to get stimulus funds for smart grid

Posted By on Thu, Oct 29, 2009 at 10:45 AM

Unfortunately, the big news probably won't affect Charlotte since Duke Energy didn't get the funds, Progress Energy did.

Kind of a slap for a city trying to re-package itself as the green energy center of the universe. Though, if you'll recall, stimulus funding can only go to shovel-ready projects. So, um, Duke? What ya doin' smart grid wise in the Q.C.? Anything?

President Barack Obama wants to speed the arrival of a "smart grid" to replace the nation's aging electrical distribution network. To make it happen, he doled out $3.4 billion in federal grants this week, including $200 million to Progress Energy.

The North Carolina-based company will split the grant 50-50 with its affiliate business in Florida, Progress Energy Florida of St. Petersburg.

"This is quite significant money," said Rob Caldwell, who holds the daunting title of "vice president of efficiency and innovative technology" at Progress Energy. "A grant of $200 million to Progress Energy and $3.4 billion to the industry is huge."

Progress Energy has already earmarked $320 million of its own resources to smart grid development, so another $200 million from the feds increases the company's commitment by more than 60 percent.

So, no pressure, Rob, but when are you going to fix everything in Electricity Land? Those who recall the country's extensive Northeast blackout of 2003 and California's electricity shortages in 2001 — clear signs of our doddering electrical grid — are all ears.

Here's the Environmental Protection Agency's press release:

U.S. EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson visited Raleigh today to announce a $200 million grant for a smarter, stronger and more efficient electric system in North Carolina, South Carolina and Florida. The funding, announced at a press conference with Lieutenant Governor Walter Dalton and Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker, is part of President Barack Obama’s announcement yesterday of the largest single energy grid modernization investment in U.S. history - $3.4 billion in Smart Grid Investment Grant Awards under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act that will be matched by industry for a total investment worth more than $8 billion.

“A cornerstone of our new foundation for prosperity is the growth of the American clean energy economy,” said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson. “Investments in innovative Smart Grid technology will create new jobs, lower energy bills for consumers and businesses, promote more efficient and reliable energy delivery, and set the stage for affordable clean energy across the country.”

An analysis by the Electric Power Research Institute estimates that the implementation of smart grid technologies could reduce electricity use by more than 4 percent by 2030. That would mean a savings of $20.4 billion for businesses and consumers around the country, and $500 million for North Carolina alone – or $51 in utility savings for every man, woman and child in North Carolina.

“These funds will help us modernize North Carolina’s energy grid – empowering consumers to cut their electric bills and paving the way for a greener, more efficient energy system,” said North Carolina Governor Bev Perdue.

The $200 million grant, which Progress Energy will match with $300 million of its own funding, will fund system and equipment upgrades that will make their grid more efficient, saving consumers money in the Carolinas and in Florida. Progress Energy will also use its funding to install 160,000 smart meters and other technology that will cut energy costs for its customers.

“Progress Energy is currently investing in several Smart Grid initiatives to meet our customer’s changing electricity needs throughout the communities that rely on us for reliable power,” said Bill Johnson, Progress Energy chairman, president and CEO. “This grant program has the potential to expand investments necessary to transform the electric grid to give customers greater control of their energy use, enable utilities to harness the potential of renewable energy and electric vehicles and improve power quality and service reliability.”

North Carolina companies, serving five states, will receive $403 million total in recovery act funding for smart grid development, which will be matched by nearly $975 million in private funds for a total investment of $1.3 billion. Duke Energy will receive a similar $200 million grant.

More information on EPA and the recovery act:  http://www.epa.gov/recovery/

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