US Invests in Smart Grid Training
Rockville, Md. – Schools across the country will be receiving stimulus funds in an attempt to educate electrical workers in smart grid technology. The plan, according to the Department of Energy, is to hand out money that will develop training programs for nearly 30,000 American workers and eventually save consumers money on their electric bill.
The total amount of awards according to Secretary of Energy, Steven Chu, will near $100 million and support 54 smart grid projects. These programs are intended to prepare the future generation of workers in the utility and electrical manufacturing industries.
The plan will be split up into two initiatives. The first part will entail the federal government providing funding in the neighborhood of $41 million to 33 projects related to the power sector and smart grid technology. This includes support for the strategies training and Education in Power Systems Initiative. This initiative develops cross-disciplinary electrical power system programs at the university and college level.
The second part of the initiative will be funding of $57.7 million for 21 projects to carry out workforce training programs for new hires, including displaced workers and military veterans. This will also provide retraining programs for electrical utility workers and electrical equipment manufacturers to increase their knowledge of smart grid systems and their implementation.
According to the DOE, some workers that will benefit from the training are support electricians, line workers, technicians, system operators, power systems engineers and cyber security specialists. The support will include developing and deploying programs that train workers on transmission and distribution systems and new intelligent grid systems, like smart meters, phasor measurement sensors and advanced communications networks.
Chu says that this plan will not only create more jobs, but ready the public for energy savings.
“Building and operating smart grid infrastructure will put tens of thousands of Americans to work,” said Chu in a DOE statement. “Today’s investment will help ensure that we have the workforce in place to meet this need.”
Chu made his announced at Pepco’s engineering and service center in Maryland, a scheduled recipient of $4.4 million in funding intended to subsidize the training of 700 new and existing employees.
In addition to the educational funding, Pepco will receive $168.1 million for other new projects. The company claims that this federal grant will be used to offset the cost to customers for installing smart meters and modernizing the electrical and smart grid, while creating new jobs, boosting the economy and laying technological groundwork for customers to better manage their energy use.
“The $168.1 million will accelerate the delivery of customer benefits through building an integrated smart grid composed of advanced metering infrastructure, distribution automation and demand response technologies,” said Joseph M Rigby, PHI Chairman, President and CEO.
While the federal government may be investing funds to enable smart grid implementation, some consumers who have sampled a taste of the new technology are unhappy with the early results. In California, several residents have sued Pacific Gas and Electric claiming that the new smart meters generate higher electric bills, compared to the same month from the previous year. PG&E has already installed invested $2.2 billion installing 4 million of the smart meters in homes and businesses all over California thus far.
The lawsuits were filed at the end of 2009 against the company with customers complaining that their meters run too fast. One Bakersfield man filed a complaint stating that his electric bill went up from $200 a month to about $500 a month after the new smart meter was installed. Hundreds of others have followed suit. To defend the suit, PG&E will be likely required to prove that the new meters are accurate and not the cause of inappropriate rate increases.