Secretary Chu: $100 million for smart grid workforce training

Phil Carson | Apr 08, 2010

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U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu stood yesterday at Pepco Holdings, Inc.'s Rockville, Md. service center and announced that nearly $100 million in federal matching funds would be awarded to 54 training programs for the smart grid workforce.

The monies are part of the $4.5 billion announced last year for smart grid and grid efficiency work under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and will be matched by the utilities, universities and vendors that receive them.

The target: training 30,000 new and existing workers. That estimate of workers comes from totals presented by the applicants themselves, according to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).

In essence, yesterday's news addressed the oft-cited need - particularly by participants in the Intelligent Utility Daily forum - for KSA, or knowledge, skills and abilities, needed to address both the transformation of the grid as well as the aging utility workforce.

The funds focus on two different initiatives.

One effort - "developing and enhancing workforce training programs for the electric power sector" - will deliver $41.6 million for 33 projects for "projects, strategies and curricula" at universities, community colleges and technical schools. The awards include support for the Strategic Training and Education in Power Systems (STEPS) initiative, which focuses on cross-disciplinary electric power programs at the university level.

The second effort - "smart grid workforce training" - will send $57.7 million for 21 projects to train new and existing workers, including military veterans and displaced workers, to ensure that utilities and vendors have the KSA to deploy smart grid initiatives. Those initiatives include projects that were awarded smart grid investment grants and demonstrations projects announced last November, according to the DOE. 

The Pepco unit where the announcement was made, for instance, is slated to receive $4.4 million in federal funding, which it will match, to train 700 workers "to implement, operate and enhance the smart grid and provide sound energy advice to customers" in Pepco's service area of Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey and the District of Columbia.

As is often typical of such programs, the funding is spread geographically across the country.

Projects that received funding yesterday ranged from the Navajo Tribal Authority Company, headquartered in Fort Defiance, Ariz., which will train workers to upgrade its distribution system in Arizona and New Mexico, to the National Grid USA Service Company, Inc., headquartered in Waltham, Mass., which will develop a training program for thousands of utility workers and provide best practices to schools and associations.

The Navajo project totals $1.4 million (split between the DOE funds and the tribal utility authority), while the latter project in Massachusetts will cost $4.4 million, split by the government and the awardee.

Two projects received the largest individual awards of $5 million each: Pennsylvania State University will perform workforce training at its GridSTAR Center and Florida Power & Light Company in Juno Beach will fund its Gateway to Power (G2P) program that will join forces between industry and academia.

As with the smart grid investment grants and demonstrations projects funded last fall, it will take time to digest the implications of yesterday's relatively modest funding of 54 projects.

One area that is ripe for coverage and which we will attempt to follow in this space is the fate of projects that applied for and did not receive funding. The DOE does not release information on unfunded applications - out of respect for applicants' competitive concerns, a department spokesperson told me this week.

Thus if your organization applied for funds awarded last fall or in this round and are able to discuss your proposal's merits and the fate of your work, feel free to shoot me an email. I will focus on a couple such projects to gauge whether they are moving forward without federal matching funds or have been stopped in their tracks.

Winners and losers? Perhaps. We'll have a look, with your help.

Phil Carson
Editor-in-chief
Intelligent Utility Daily
pcarson@energycentral.com
303-228-4757

 

 

 

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Comments

I'll use my imagination....

and pretend I am a Taxpayer... WTF???    Why in the *@?! is the Government Spending even more money than we don't have?  Do you want your stupid smart grid (hey a juxtaposition) owned by the Chinese?

It is beyond idiotic that the only question to bring up is "Did you get yours?"  or "What are you gonna do if you were left out?"

Do you know we are headed off a financial cliff as a Government... ONE HUNDRED MILLION DOLLARS!!!! FOR TRAINING???

STUPID, CAN I BE MORE CLEAR????

Don't EVER tell me how much money a Stupid Smart Grid will ever save me as a consumer... because will i'm paying my supposedley cheaper electric bill the goverment is stealing my money right out of my bank account through inflation, higher taxes to pay for the debt so you guys can pretend that your stupid smart grids are doing something...

I have to go now, I need Duct Tape to apply around my cranium... my head is about to explode...

Phil, did the financial aspect of spending money we don't have EVER cross your mind?

Mal-Investment

They problem is gov't is picking 'winners and losers' - the gov't shouldn't be funding ANY of this... if it is so damn good then the Utility cos should just invest their own money since they seem to think this will solve all their problems and save so much money....

No, gov't money spent on these projects is my wasted tax dollar that could have gone for something that benefits me... like my OWN MONEY in my OWN ACCOUNT...

Our nation is bankrupt and any money spent this way is ultimately only adding to our $14,000,000,000,000 national debt...

All of your supposed savings will be more than washed out by skyrocketing interest rates and runaway inflation... then where's your savings gonna come from?

go to www.mises.org and learn about Austrian Economics and you'll begin to see the absolute catastrophy we are headed for if we don't batten down and cut spending drastically

 

My Imagination

I wouldn't want to see this money spent on training workers to install in-home displays or price-sensing appliances.  Interval meters, maybe.  Substation automation systems, sure.  Synchrophasors (set on stun), absolutely.  Same for sensors that make it possible to dynamically re-rate transmission lines.

The Smart Grid stuff that's largely invisible is worth doing if it's targeted carefully and has a clear value propoosition.  I'd like to know more about the grants that were funded and the ones that were not.

It might also be worth knowing whether these funds were used to hire and train new workers, or simply upgrade the skills of the existing workforce.