Originally published: March 23, 2009
Last updated: March 23, 2009 - 9:12pm
The federal stimulus bill is giving smart grid initiatives a jump start, allocating about $11 billion for utilities to shift their energy supply networks to digital technology, increasing efficiency and reliability and cutting costs. The bill includes $4.5 billion the Department of Energy will use mostly to provide matching grants to utilities for smart grid development and $6.4 billion that probably will be provided to utilities as loans. Smart grids let utilities better manage the flow of power to homes and businesses, and raise prices when demand is high and lower them during off-peak times. They also give energy customers more information on their energy consumption so they can program high-use electrical appliances like heating and air conditioning systems to reduce consumption at times of peak usage. This technology relies heavily on networks and switches for power management, data collection, communications, and real-time monitoring, as well as building sensors and applications for meter reading and optimizing energy use and distribution. "IT is going to power this whole thing," says Todd Thibodeaux, CEO of CompTIA. "None of this is going to work without software and hardware." The smart grid effort along with other energy initiatives in the stimulus package could create 370,000 jobs, with 85% of the funds going to IT jobs and the remainder going to construction, says Daniel Castro, a senior analyst with the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, a Washington think tank. Jobs created will span traditional IT professions, including specialized ones to support smart meters, networking protocols, the communication infrastructure, and related networking hardware and infrastructure, Castro says.
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