U.S. Smart Grid Status Report Describes a Strong Beginning

The U.S. Department of Energy, in a recent report, takes stock of its Smart Grid Investment Grant program (SGIG), which, with funding from the 2009 stimulus bill, provides $3.4 billion in direct grants to be matched on a one-to-one basis by private funds. The aim, says the report, has been "to achieve wide-reaching, sustainable benefits by supporting early adopters of smart grid technologies and systems, and [by] collecting performance data to evaluate and document realized benefits."

As of end-March 2012, the program had provided close to $3 billion for smart metering, $1 billion for electricity systems, and roughly a half billion dollars each for electric transmission and customer systems. More than 10.8 million smart meters--8 percent of all electricity meters in the United States--have been newly installed in the program, and 287 networked phasor measurement units (PMUs). Advanced metering (AMI) has enabled Talquin Electric Cooperative in Florida, for example, to save more than $500,000 annually because of more efficient repair servicing and billing.

Other success stories mentioned in the report include the Electric Power Board of Chattanooga, Tennessee, which has installed 1,500 automated circuit switches and sensors on 164 circuits, and Oklahoma Gas and Electric, which is initiating time-based retail rates and customer demand-response systems like in-home displays, web portals, and programmable communicating thermostats.

One of the most ambitious programs launched with support from the stimulus bill (or, more formally, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, ARRA), is that undertaken by the Sacramento Municipal Utility District in California. In that project, which is described in detail in the August issue of the IEEE Smart Grid newsletter, SMUD is spending upwards of $360 milllion on "AMI, distribution automation, enhanced cyber security, electric vehicle infrastructure, customer applications and demand response initiatives." The improved infrastructure is enabling SMUD, among other things, to conduct trials of time-of-use and critical peak price systems, so as to evaluate the potential for demand-response systems and determine how such systems are best designed.

The SGIG program as a whole has the objectives, the DOE report says, of accelerating by several years industry plans to deploy smart grid technologies, develop and transfer know-how, and shore up cybersecurity. In the next 18 months, as SGIG projects are deployed, DOE's electricity office will continue monitor developments closely and issue quarterly reports.

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