Blog Post

FPL CEO: We Haven't Seen A Dime of the Smart Grid Stimulus

Oh, the endless issues with the smart grid stimulus funds — the close to $4 billion in federal grants to over 130 smart grid projects. With that level of funding there were bound to be some hurdles. Here’s another: speed. On Thursday morning at the Wall Street Journal’s Eco:nomics conference, the CEO of Florida power company FPL Group (s FPL), Lewis Hay III, expressed his concern that “not a dime” of the smart grid stimulus funds had been allocated to the winners to his knowledge.

FPL Group’s investor-owned utility FPL won a $200 million grant — the maximum amount that could be awarded to any one project — to help it install 2.6 million smart meters, 9,000 smart distribution devices, 45 phasors and advanced monitoring at its substations. FPL announced last year that it will build out a smart meter project in conjunction with Cisco (s CSCO), GE (s GE), Silver Spring Networks and the city of Miami.

Is the Department of Energy dragging its feet on handing out the stimulus funds? Well, the first round of smart grid stimulus funds were announced at the end of October, and the second round of smart grid stimulus funds were announced in late November. So we’re already at between 3 and 4 months between picking the winners before funds have reportedly reached utilities’ and vendor’s pockets. FPL isn’t the only one that’s stated this, but a variety of vendors have repeated the same sentiment to us.

One reason for the possible delay is that it seems to be unclear if the stimulus funds are taxable or not. SmartGridNews recently reported that “the Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service have determined that Smart Grid stimulus grant awards are taxable,” but “The National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC) thinks it’s a really bad idea.” On the other hand industry watchers like eMeter Chief Regulatory Officer Chris King have said that the stimulus funds are not taxable.

6 Responses to “FPL CEO: We Haven't Seen A Dime of the Smart Grid Stimulus”

  1. Is this surprising? The consequences of beaurocracy are inevitable. Additionally, what about environmental licencing or environmental impact assessments for these projects? I assume many of them may trigger these, and that is a long process in and of itself.

  2. $200M is a lot of tax payer dollars. The government needs to make sure that recipients like FPL have plans for the grants that match the public’s expectations on how the $$ will be used. Checking every facet of a plan to spend $200M takes time (not to mention almost $4B). Especially for an organization that has natural barriers to quickly increasing staffing levels (such as laws forcing employee retention).

    What is worse: FPL having to wait a few extra months for the grants or two years down the line it becoming public that $5M of the FPL grant went towards corporate pork?