President Obama announced Oct. 27 "the largest single energy grid modernization investment in U.S. history" with $3.4 billion in Smart Grid Investment Grant awards, said a statement by the Department of Energy. The funding is "part of the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act, and will be matched by industry funding for a total public-private investment worth over $8 billion."
The grants were awarded to "100 private companies, [PDF] utilities, manufacturers, cities and other partners" in 49 states. Most of the projects that are receiving grants involve the installation of smart meters.
"Such an investment won't just create new pathways for energy-it's expected to create tens of thousands of new jobs all across America in areas ranging from manufacturing and construction to IT and the installation of new equipment in homes and in businesses," Obama said in a speech at Florida Power and Light's DeSoto Next Generation Solar Energy Center, in Arcadia, Fla. " It's expected to save consumers more than $20 billion over the next decade on their utility bills."
Obama said cabinet members and other administration officials will visit "awardee sites across the country to discuss how this investment will create jobs, improve the reliability and efficiency of the electrical grid, and help bring clean energy sources from high-production states to those with less renewable generating capacity," said the DOE statement.
"Now, let me explain what's going on with these smart meters. Smart meters will allow you to actually monitor how much energy your family is using by the month, by the week, by the day or even by the hour," Obama said. "So, coupled with other technologies, this is going to help you manage your electricity use and your budget at the same time, allowing you to conserve electricity during times when prices are highest, like hot summer days."
The awards "represent the largest group of Recovery Act awards ever made in a single day and the largest batch of Recovery Act clean energy grant awards to date," the DOE said.
Obama pledged to promote clean energy during his campaign for the White House, and on Oct. 27 he said, "The creation of a clean energy economy has to be [carried out] as swiftly and carefully as possible, to ensure that what it takes to grow this economy in the short, medium and long term is no longer delayed."
Nevertheless, he warned, as America begins to shift to new energy policies, entrenched special interests in Washington will increase their lobbying pressure to maintain the status quo.
"The closer we get to this new energy future, the harder the opposition is going to fight, [and] the more we're going to hear from special interests and lobbyists in Washington whose interests are contrary to the interests of the American people," Obama said. "Now, there are those who are also going to suggest that moving toward a clean energy future is going to somehow harm the economy or lead to fewer jobs. And they're going to argue that we should do nothing, stand pat, do less or delay action yet again."
Obama added, "It's a debate between looking backward and looking forward; between those who are ready to seize the future and those who are afraid of the future. And we know which side the United States of America has always come down on."