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Summary:

The smart grid is being touted as the Swiss army knife of cleantech — adding energy efficiency to the power grid, saving consumers money on energy bills, and creating jobs. That’s the way Florida utility FPL Group sees it, and today FPL, Cisco, GE, Silver Spring […]

The smart grid is being touted as the Swiss army knife of cleantech — adding energy efficiency to the power grid, saving consumers money on energy bills, and creating jobs. That’s the way Florida utility FPL Group sees it, and today FPL, Cisco, GE, Silver Spring Networks and the city of Miami are announcing a large smart meter rollout in the Miami area that they hope will be partly funded with investment from the stimulus package. There’s a big press conference with the details at 10 a.m. (PST), but the Today Show has some of the details already in a couple different video clips.

GE will provide 1 million smart meters, and FPL Group CEO Lewis Hay tells the “Today Show” that if the “broad-based trial” is successful for that initial group, it will be rolled out to the rest of FPL’s 4.5 million customers. The initial rollout, dubbed Energy Smart Miami, will cost $200 million, and extending the smart meter solution beyond Miami will cost another $500 million.

According to the “Today Show,” the companies hope that half of the investment will be provided by the stimulus package (the “Today Show” phrased it as half will be provided by the stimulus, but I think it’s not official yet) and half by FPL Group. According to Silver Spring Networks, a startup that will provide the network connectivity, the companies are working to “ensure that the initiative meets President Obama’s criteria as a “shovel-ready” project to qualify for matching funds from…the federal stimulus package. Contingent on receiving this federal support, Energy Smart Miami could begin later this year and be completed by the end of 2011.”

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Just last week Vice President Joe Biden outlined a draft plan for how the smart grid funds from the stimulus package would be spent. Those plans went into a 20-day comment period last week before being finalized, and they include $3.4 billion in grants for technology development and another $615 million for demo projects of smart grid storage, monitoring and technology. GE has said it is hoping to tap into $2 trillion worth of government stimulus spending over the next three years to beef up revenue in its energy infrastructure division.

The “Today Show” shows clips of consumers using smart meters to control appliances and managing their energy consumption through an online web site, and it says the average resident in the trial saved 5 percent on their average monthly energy bill. GE’s CEO Jeffrey Immelt said that he thinks energy management will follow the way of consumers managing their finances and banking online: It will take time but will end up being a trusted, efficient consumer tool.

According to Silver Spring there will be initial trials in 1,000 homes in Miami that will use more intensive energy management devices, including:

  • “in-home energy displays or “eco-panels” to help manage electrical loads and lower power use during peak periods,”
  • “smart appliances that can communicate with smart meters to reschedule high-energy functions or switch to a lower-consumption mode during peak demand periods”
  • “programmable and smart-meter-controllable thermostats”
  • “demand management and demand response software that will manage consumer appliances, lighting and other devices using smart meters.”

When we get more details on what companies are providing the tech for some of these more intensive consumer energy management services, we’ll let you know.

Why Miami? The mayor of Miami, Manny Diaz, told the “Today Show” that it’s “on the front lines” of the global climate, and is one of the largest urban areas affected by rising sea levels and stronger hurricanes. And importantly in this down economy, the companies say that the smart meter rollout could provide 1,000 new jobs.

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  10. Feedback works. Just having the information about power consumption available at one’s fingertips is going to change behavior. People will turn something off and see the savings. Then they’ll start turning lots of things off.

    I know that my driving is more economical since I bought a Camry Hybrid. There’s an instantaneous MPG meter that takes the place of the tach. You want to keep this at 60 MPH as much as possible, if not on electric only.

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