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DOE Offers $3.9 Billion to Support Smart Grid Technologies

July 8, 2009

DOE issued solicitations in late June for $3.9 billion in grants to support the development and demonstration of smart grid technologies. Smart grid technologies involve adding communication capabilities and control systems to the electrical grid. Just as the Internet drastically changed how people use their home computers, adding communications to the power grid is expected to change how people use electricity, resulting in improved home energy management for the homeowner, greater demand control for the utility, and a more reliable power grid overall. Smart grids are also expected to better accommodate the use of renewable energy, all forms of on-site power production, and electric vehicles.

DOE's new solicitations include a $3.3 billion Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) for the Smart Grid Investment Grant Program, which is intended to enable smart grid functions on the nation's electrical grid as soon as possible. The cost-shared grants will support the manufacturing, purchasing, and installation of existing smart grid technologies that can be deployed on a commercial scale, with a maximum award of $200 million. Applications are due on August 6. DOE also issued an FOA for $615 million to identify and develop new and more effective smart grid technologies. The Smart Grid Demonstration Program will support demonstrations of the innovative use of emerging technologies in the power grid, with a maximum award of $100 million. Applications are due on August 26. Both solicitations are funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. See the DOE press release, and download the FOAs by searching the public opportunities on FedConnect for reference numbers DE-FOA-0000058 for the Smart Grid Investment Grant Program and DE-FOA-0000036 for the Smart Grid Demonstrations Program.

As DOE works to help deploy the smart grid, the U.S. Commerce Department is working to develop the technical standards that will govern its construction. Just as most home entertainment systems involve combining components from different manufacturers that need to work together, a smart grid will require smart electric meters, smart home appliances, and utility systems to work together. The system must allow for upgrades to handle electric vehicles and new power sources, but like the Internet, it must also be secure against outside tampering. Standards will also aim to avoid utility investments in technologies that may quickly become outmoded. As the first step to creating smart grid standards, the Commerce Department's National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has released a 300-page report, prepared by the Electric Power Research Institute, to identify the issues and priorities for developing such standards. NIST released the report in mid-June and opened it to public comment with a Federal Register notice on June 30. Comments are due by July 30. See the NIST press release, the Federal Register notice, and the full 291-page report (PDF 5.7 MB). Download Adobe Reader.