$3.4 billion in grants to be announced for smart grid

We waste a significant amount of electricity due to an outdated and inefficient electric grid in the United States. Thus, this investment is significant.

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.

This investment is only the first step, and part of the criteria here was the speed with which companies could implement the changes, as this money comes from the stimulus package. For example, the grants will not be used to build new power lines, but improve the capabilities of the electrical system. The funds will be used for a variety of projects, including approximately “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.” Companies had to bid and compete for the funds, and the winning companies secured an additional $4.7 billion in private money to match their government grants, resulting in a total of $8.1 billion in total investment in the smart grid.

The smart meters are critical, as they encourage consumers to use electricity more efficiently. If you can see on your meter that running the dishwasher costs you more during the day, you will consider running it at night instead when rates are cheaper. If you’re costs are spiking during the day, you might realize that you can open the windows instead of running the air conditioner.

  

States rush to get high-speed rail applications ready

The Obama administration has set aside $8 billion in the stimulus package for high-speed rail projects, and states need to submit their applications by October 2, 2009. Some have estimated that the aggregate dollar amount of the applications will exceed $100 billion, so competition is fierce. These aren’t just emergency loans – this is money specifically tagged for building transportation infrastructure in cities that need it.

The Plain Dealer is reporting on the progress Ohio is making, and the enormous time and effort being devoted by government agencies and private individuals.

Ohio passenger rail advocates are moving at breakneck speed to fulfill requirements to apply for up to $450 million in federal stimulus money to provide service from Cleveland to Cincinnati.

They are seeking public input through a Web site, toll-free phone number and meetings across the state as part of an environmental assessment study that is required as part of the funding application, due by Oct. 2 to the Federal Rail Commission.

The study, which usually takes about a year, will be compiled in less than three months.

“We are really compressing this process and a lot of it is driven by the tight timeline,” said Stu Nicholson, spokesman for the Ohio Rail Development Commission, an independent agency of the Ohio Department of Transportation. “But I am not overstating this at all to say the level of interest from virtually every community large and small is very high.”

Under Ohio’s 3C plan, three trains would travel daily from Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton and Cincinnati in each direction along the 260-mile corridor. The service, with 79-mph trains, would begin in 2011 with minimal stops. It would eventually add more stops and become part of a 110-mph high-speed network to connect west to Chicago and east to New York.

The trains would be operated by Amtrak on freight tracks owned by CSX and Norfolk Southern. More than 6 million people live within 15 miles of the route, said ODOT spokesman Scott Varner.

The stimulus money will be down-payment on an even more aggressive federal push for high-speed rail, and as evidenced by the activity in Ohio, states are serious about moving forward. The impact on the environment and on economic development can be significant. Hopefully budget issues won’t impact the next wave of high-speed rail funding.

  

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