Cantwell Announces $11 Million for Smart Grid Workforce Training

Cantwell Legislation Opened Way for Funding to Modernize Nation's Electricity Grid, Create Job Opportunities in a Clean Energy Economy

SEATTLE, WA – Today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) announced more than $11 million in federal funding going to Washington state for three smart-grid workforce training programs. Cantwell has led efforts to invest in technologies that will upgrade the nation’s electricity grid and create jobs in a clean energy economy. She pushed to include $4.5 billion in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) for smart grid investments. Energy legislation authored by Cantwell in 2007 laid the groundwork for the grants announced today.
 “To reap the benefits of smart-grid technology we must have a smart-grid work force trained and ready to help us transition to a clean-energy economy,” said Cantwell.  “These grants, financing training programs across Washington state represent a critically important investment in taking control of our energy future and the next generation of family-wage jobs.”
The $11 million Washington is receiving is part of $100 million in smart-grid funding announced today by Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Steven Chu for 54 projects nationally. The federal grants will be combined with $95 million from community colleges, universities, utilities, and manufacturers. Under the Washington state grants:
·         Centralia College is receiving nearly $5 million for a project that will deliver smart grid training for utility workers in the Pacific Northwest, including through an online portal
·         Washington State University is receiving $2.5 million to develop courses in clean energy and smart grid engineering. Smart grid technology includes hardware and software, which when linked together can communicate to optimize how electricity is generated, transmitted, distributed, and used.
·         And Incremental Systems Corporation in Issaquah is receiving $3.6 million to train operators, engineers, students, and 120 military veterans in preventing major power system events. Participants will then be placed in energy industry jobs
Today’s DOE grants were funded by the February 2009 stimulus bill, but the Smart Grid title of the 2007 Energy Bill, authored by Cantwell, laid the legislative groundwork for the program.  The smart grid title established a development  program at the Department of Energy; required a framework for making new smart grids interoperable with each other; established a federal matching grant program; created a Smart Grid Advisory Committee to advise the federal government on the deployment of smart grid technologies; initiated a Smart Grid Task Force to coordinate the federal government’s smart grid policies; and encouraged state utility regulatory commissions to allow for rate recovery for smart grid investments.