SDG&E Gets $28.1M Federal Grant for Smart Grid Innovations

[Updated 10/27/09 12:55 pm. See below.] The Department of Energy has released a list of utilities that are getting federal grants to spur energy innovations under the $787 billion economic stimulus package, and San Diego Gas & Electric is getting $28.1 million to help build out its “smart grid” system.

Additional details are expected to follow President Obama’s speech at a solar facility in Florida, where he is expected to announce grants totaling $3.4 billion—the largest award made under the stimulus package in one day. The grants, which range from $400,000 to $200 million, are intended to help utilities build smart grid systems (which help consumers save money by providing real-time monitoring of their energy use), upgrade local power grids to reduce blackouts, and boost use of renewable energy.

The $3.4 billion is being allotted through 100 government grants in 49 states that will be matched by $4.7 billion in private investments.

[Updates below with new information from SDG&E and clarifies that the utility formed the coalition as part of a second grant application] SDG&E, a utility operated by San Diego’s Sempra Energy, said in September it has formed a coalition with the non-profit group Cleantech San Diego, UC San Diego, and major companies like Qualcomm, IBM, Cisco, and Intel. The coalitions was formed as part of a separate grant application that seeks $100 million for a regional demonstration system to help SDG&E manage the increasing demands on its power grid from electric vehicles as well as fluctuations in energy supplied to the grid by wind, solar and other renewable energy sources.

“It’s all part of the broader smart grid funding that the federal government has put aside,” says Chris Baker, a senior vice president for shared services and chief information officer for SDG&E and its sister utility, Southern California Gas. “You can’t do a smart grid without an enabling communications infrastructure.”

Baker says the $28.1 million DOE grant will enable the San Diego utility to address a variety of wireless communications needs with a more comprehensive plan. For example, while the utility has installed about 130,000 smart meters so far, Baker says the grant will enable SDG&E to establish a dedicated 700 megahertz “takeout point” for transmitting data from the smart meters’ wireless mesh network. The $28.1 million grant to SDG&E from the DOE will cover almost half of the $60 million project. The funding also enables the utility to install high-bandwidth wireless capabilities at its substations and certain corners of its grid.

SDG&E is working to integrate 1.4 million wireless “smart meters,” which the utility has been installing, with an advanced IT system that will allow increased monitoring, communication, and control of a regional power grid that spans 4,100 square miles.

Bruce V. Bigelow was the editor of Xconomy San Diego from 2008 to 2018. Read more about his life and work here. Follow @bvbigelow

Trending on Xconomy