CenterPoint, Reliant land fed 'smart grid' funds

CenterPoint Energy has been granted $200 million in federal stimulus funding to speed up deployment of new electric grid technology while Houston-based electric retailer Reliant Energy was given near $20 million. Surprisingly Oncor Energy, which runs the power grid in Dallas, didn’t get any of the $200 million it asked to help speed up its smart grid technology installation.

centerpoint_bucket_truck CenterPoint will use the federal funds to install smart meters and so-called ‘mid-grid’ technology. (Julio Cortez/ Chronicle)

The grants were part of the $3.4 billion in grants from the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act announced by President Obama today in Florida (here’s a transcript).
The grants will be matched with industry funding for a total investment of $8 billion. The feds believe it will “create tens of thousands of jobs, and consumers in 49 states will benefit from these investments in a stronger, more reliable grid.” An analysis of the funds by the Electric Power Research Institute estimates that the smart grid technologies could cut electricity use by more than 4 percent by 2030, saving $20.4 billion for businesses and consumers around the country,
A list of the projects by state is here, and here’s a map of where the projects are.
CenterPoint asked for the funds this summer to help the previously started smart meter roll-out and push forward with so-called ‘mid-grid’ technology that can help make the region’s power grid more resilient to outages.
Reliant’s funds will go toward installation of “a suite of smart meter products, enabling customers to manage their electricity usage, promote energy efficiency, and lower overall energy costs,” according to the Department of Energy.
It’s kind of odd Oncor didn’t get funds. CenterPoint officials emphasized the vulnerability of this area to hurricane-induced outages and the important national interests housed here, namely the Port of Houston and petrochemical industry. They even held their announcement of the fund application at the Port this summer. Perhaps Dallas’ needs were considered vital enough? Maybe the Fed didn’t like that Oncor is trying to get customers to pay for the thousands of not-quite-as-smart-as-needed meters the company installed a couple of year ago?

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