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Biden gives more smart-grid funding details

The Obama administration is releasing more details about how it will implement new smart-grid technology nationwide.

The Obama administration announced new plans on Thursday to kick-start smart-grid development, including funding details and the start of a standardization process.

During a visit to Jefferson City, Mo., Vice President Joe Biden detailed plans for the U.S. Department of Energy to distribute more than $3.3 billion in stimulus funds for smart-grid technology development grants. Additionally, the Energy Department will hand out $615 million for regional demonstration projects that exhibit smart-grid storage, monitoring and technology viability.

"We need an upgraded electrical grid to take full advantage of the vast renewable resources in this country--to take the wind from the Midwest and the sun from the Southwest and power areas across the country," Biden said in his prepared remarks. "By investing in updating the grid now, we will lower utility bills for American families and businesses, lessen our dependence on foreign oil and create good jobs that will drive our economic recovery."

The $3.375 billion Energy Department grant program will give out grants ranging from $500,000 to $20 million for smart-grid technology deployments. It will also give out grants of $100,000 to $5 million for the deployment of grid monitoring devices.

The $615 million for demonstration projects will specifically fund exhibitions that verify technology viability and examine new business models, give energy storage demonstrations, or exhibitions that demonstrate grid monitoring devices that allow system operators to manipulate electric flows in real time.

Alongside the vice president in Jefferson City, Commerce Secretary Gary Locke announced his plans to chair, with Energy Secretary Steven Chu, a series of meetings in May with private-sector leaders and others involved in smart-grid development to devise industry-wide smart-grid standards. The meeting participants are expected to commit to a timetable for reaching a standards agreement and to abide by the standards devised.

Regulators and private-sector representatives have warned Washington that if common smart-grid standards are not implemented, the government risks wasting taxpayers' money on soon-obsolete technologies that could be incompatible with one another.

"A smart electricity grid will revolutionize the way we use energy, but we need standards in place to ensure that all this new technology is compatible and operating at the highest cybersecurity standards to protect the smart grid from hackers and natural disasters," Locke said in his prepared remarks. "The Recovery Act will fund the development of those standards so the exciting technology can finally take off."