Smart grid stimulus is big win for consumers

President Obama today announced $3.4 billion in federal stimulus funding to build a "smarter" electricity grid. The funds are the largest single energy grid modernization investment in U.S. history, according to the Department of Energy, and are expected to create tens of thousands of jobs.

We're excited because the vast majority of the projects will benefit consumers directly by giving them tools and information to save energy and cut utility bills. For example, the Sacramento Municipal Utility District will receive $127 million to install 600,000 smart meters and 50,000 programmable thermostats and home energy management systems. Oklahoma Gas and Electric Company will receive $130 million to provide 771,000 meters to 100% of its customers. These technologies will enable consumers to receive direct feedback on their energy use, which can lead to energy savings of up to 15% on average. Altogether the awards will fund the installation of 18 million smart meters, 1 million in-home energy displays and 170,000 smart thermostats.

With the advent of smart meters and other information technologies, we have the opportunity to rebuild the electricity grid, which still uses century-old technology in places. Most importantly, we can make the grid work better for consumers. Today's announcement is an ambitious step toward that goal.