Smart grid project to create 500 Wash. jobs

By:  Puget Sound Business Journal

Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., said Monday that the U.S. Energy Department has approved $178 million in funding for a Pacific Northwest Smart Grid Demonstration Project for improving electricity grid systems across five states.

The project will create an estimated 500 jobs in Washington state and a total of 1,500 in the Pacific Northwest region, she said.

Full press release on Cantwell's announcement below:

RICHLAND, WA – Today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) announced that the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has approved release of grant funding for the $178 million Pacific Northwest Smart Grid Demonstration Project that will create an estimated 500 jobs statewide. Speaking from Battelle, Cantwell said that with the project now fully launched, the deployment and installation of new smart grid technology across five states will create 1,500 jobs in the region, one-third of them in Washington state.

“With funding for this landmark smart grid demonstration project now moving ahead, our region is cementing its leadership in what will be a worldwide smart grid marketplace worth hundreds of billions of dollars,” Senator Cantwell said. “This project will create hundreds of jobs in the near term and position Washington state to be a leader in the growing clean energy economy.”

Funding for the Pacific Northwest Smart Grid Demonstration Project will be used to install various pieces of smart grid framework across the five-state region. This work will produce good-paying jobs as the project moves forward, and positions the region for still more job creation with the implementation of future smart grid technologies. These include smart meters that will provide real-time energy use information to customers and help reduce increases in the cost of power. Smart grid technology includes hardware and software, which when linked together can communicate to optimize how electricity is generated, transmitted, distributed, and used.

Cantwell continued: “Electricity demand is expected to grow 40 percent between now and 2030. But our homes and businesses still use the same types of meters that were invented before the television, and power interruptions cost our economy billions a year and risk the health and safety of our citizens. Infusing intelligence into our electricity grid will make it more efficient, reliable and able to accommodate cleaner, more diverse sources of renewable energy. This project will help us transition to a 21st century energy grid, and Washington state will pave the way with knowledge gained from the Pacific Northwest Smart Grid Demonstration Project.”

DOE, through its National Energy Technology Laboratory in Morgantown, West Virginia, authorized funding to flow for the second phase of the project last Thursday. Release of the initial funding from the $88 million grant allows the project to go forward with contract commitments and hiring of staff. The remainder of the project’s funding is expected to be released by the end of August. The project at its peak is expected to create or retain 1,500 jobs in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming, with 500 of those jobs located in Washington.

Cantwell has led efforts to invest in technologies that will upgrade the nation’s electricity grid. She pushed to include $4.5 billion in ARRA funds for smart grid investments, funding which is authorized by legislation authored by Senator Cantwell in the 2007 Energy Bill. Cantwell also called on regional stakeholders to jointly develop a regional smart grid demonstration project at her Smart Grid Conference held in Spokane in February 2009.

Battelle Memorial Institute led a broad regional coalition that in November 2009 was awarded an $88.8 million grant under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) to develop smart grid technologies that will create jobs and lead to lower electricity bills for consumers. Project participants – which include the Bonneville Power Administration, utilities across the Pacific Northwest, leading smart grid companies, and the University of Washington and Washington State University – are matching this funding dollar-for-dollar for a total project investment of $178 million. About 60,000 metered customers will also participate. Battelle signed the first phase of its cooperative agreement in February with DOE, which released approximately four percent of the funds for the design of the program