Blog Post

For Smart Grid Stimulus Funds, Look to States, Too

While utilities and companies are eagerly awaiting the upcoming announcement about which of the hundreds of applicants managed to grab a piece of the $4 billion from the federal stimulus package for smart grid projects, it looks like states could offer smaller runner-up prizes. Smart meter tech maker SmartSynch says that it’s been awarded a $3.75 million grant from the state of Mississippi in exchange for SmartSynch’s tech to be used to manage energy consumption at public buildings in the state.

SmartSynch is based in Jackson, Mississippi, and it sells technology that uses public wireless networks, like AT&T’s (s T), to link smart meters to utilities. SmartSynch says the big advantage of using phone company networks is that utilities don’t have to put down the capital expense of building a proprietary network, but can instead rent space on an existing network. SmartSynch is working with Texas utility Texas-New Mexico Power (TNMP) to roll out 10,000 smart meters at Texas homes.

SmartSynch’s state funds ultimately come from the stimulus package, but were part of $16 million in state energy funds allocated to Mississippi. The state will another $40 million after it shows energy efficiency results. Other state energy efficiency programs from the stimulus will likely take a similar approach and look to smart meters and smart grid tech for commercial, industrial and public building energy management. California has been a particularly aggressive state when it comes to smart grid — the recently-passed Senate Bill 17 calls for California state utilities to outline smart grid plans by July 2010.

While the state funds are nowhere near the size of the DOE smart grid project investments, which will be on the scale of of hundreds of millions of dollars each, state stimulus funds could provide a handy financial bump, as well as a high profile state tech deal. Smart meter projects for public buildings offer some solid marketing and bragging rights. And for those dozens of utilities and companies that won’t be able to get some of the $4 billion in smart grid funds, don’t forget to look in your own state backyard.