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, 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, 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.