The U.S. Energy Department will spend $100 million to train workers to upgrade the electric transmission system. This effort is because China is ahead of the United States in the development of so-called “smart grid” technologies. The new worker-training program will be paid for by stimulus money.
DOE also has a related $44 million program for state public utility commissions to encourage more local smart grid efforts.
A smart grid is an electric distribution system that leverages software and power-line improvements to increase the efficiency of the transmission of power from producer to user and makes it easy for consumers to cut their energy use.
Energy policymakers have talked for years about the need to upgrade the country’s transmission grid to make it both more reliable and more efficient to cut down energy loss in distribution. That would have the effect of reducing carbon dioxide emissions through conservation.
The smart grid gained new prominence as an issue during the debate over the stimulus package when Obama made the creation of green jobs a central piece of the administration’s efforts to end the recession. Dozens of towns, companies and lobbying firms have registered to lobby on the issue since, seeking some portion of the $4.5 billion in stimulus money for grid improvements.
General Electric, Google, Wal-Mart, Accenture and American Electric Power have all lobbied this year on the smart grid issue, because they sell products that help make a grid “smart,” sell the power or are large users of electricity.
Investing in a smart grid makes great sense for all Americans because utilties can deliver more electric energy to consumers for every ton of coal burned in a boiler. Just like fuel efficient cars make sense in this day and age, making the electric grid more energy efficient is a great use of Obama Bucks and Kentucky coal!