WASHINGTON - The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced that the maximum award available for smart grid projects has been significantly increased. DOE announced in mid-April that it intends to provide nearly $4 billion in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds for smart grid projects. The funds will include $3.375 billion for the Smart Grid Investment Grant Program, which supports the deployment of smart grid technologies and grid monitoring devices, and $615 million for demonstrations of regional smart grids, utility-scale energy storage systems, and grid monitoring devices. Based on feedback received after that announcement, DOE has raised the award ceiling for smart grid deployments under the Smart Grid Investment Grant Program from $20 million to $200 million, and it has raised the award ceiling for regional smart grid demonstrations from $40 million to $100 million.

Energy Secretary Steven Chu also teamed up with Commerce Secretary Gary Locke to chair a meeting of smart grid industry leaders at the White House. Smart grid technologies are sometimes referred to as the Internet for the power industry, providing real-time, two-way communications between utilities and their customers. Smart grids allow for greater power reliability, improved demand response, and better energy management in homes. They can also enable more efficient use of on-site energy production, including renewable energy systems. But because they rely on communications technologies, noted DOE, smart grid systems need consistent standards to ensure that devices from various vendors can interact, that today’s systems can meet future smart grid needs, and that smart grids provide high levels of security. The White House meeting encouraged industry executives to expedite the adoption of smart grid standards.

After the meeting, Chu and Locke announced the first set of 16 interoperability standards for smart grid technologies, based on the consensus of participants in a public workshop. The standards are recognized by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and address a wide range of subjects, including smart meters, distributed power components, and cyber security. Future standards will address basic connectivity and data networking. DOE also provided $10 million in Recovery Act funds to NIST in support of its efforts to coordinate the smart grid standards.

Publication date:06/15/2009