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Obama to Give $3.4 Billion in Grants for Smart Grid

Tom Doggett

A man views solar panels on a roof at Google headquarters in Mountain View, California, June 18, 2007. (REUTERS/Kimberly White)

WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama
on Tuesday will announce $3.4 billion in government grants to help
build a "smart" electric grid that will save consumers money on their
utility bills, reduce blackouts and carry power supplies generated by
solar and wind energy, the White House said.

It marks the largest award made in a single day from the $787
billion stimulus package approved by Congress, and will create tens of
thousands of jobs while upgrading the U.S. electric grid, according to
administration officials.

The grants, which range from $400,000 to $200 million, will go to
100 companies, utilities, manufacturers, cities and other partners in
49 states.

"It is fair to say that the current (grid) system is certainly
outdated. It's dilapidated," Carol Browner, the president's top adviser
on climate change and energy issues, told reporters in a telephone

"Not only do we need to make the current system bigger and add more watts, but we need to make it function better," she said.

The grants will not be used to build new power lines, but improve
the capabilities of the electrical system. "I would say it's more than
a face-lift," Browner said.

The money will pay for about 18 million smart meters that will help
consumers manage energy use in their homes, 700 automated substations
to make it faster for utilities to restore power knocked out by storms
and 200,000 smart transformers that allow power companies to replace
units before they fail, thus avoiding outages.

Obama will announce the grants on Tuesday when he visits one of the largest solar farms in the country in Arcadia, Florida.

The winning companies have secured an additional $4.7 billion in
private money to match their government grants, creating $8.1 billion
in total investment in the smart grid.

The White House will act fast to get the money into the economy,
with the funds expected to be in the accounts of the winning companies
within 60 days. The projects themselves will last 12 to 36 months.

One of the winning companies is Constellation Energy's Baltimore Gas
and Electric Co, which will receive $200 million in grants to add to
$250 million in private funds to deploy a smart meter network for all
of its 1.1 million residential customers.

BGE customers can use the meters to view their electricity use in
real-time, allowing them to run appliances when there is less demand on
the grid and power prices are cheaper.

Sempra Energy's San Diego Gas and Electric Co subsidiary will get
$28.1 million on top of the $32 million it plans to spend to connect
1.4 million smart meters.

(Editing by Mohammad Zargham)

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