Salazar Underscores Energy Transmission Technology, Lauds Houston Utilities’ Smart Grid Leadership


Local Companies Awarded Over $250 Million in Smart Grid Grants


10/28/2009

Contact: Frank Quimby (DOI)
(202) 208-6416

HOUSTON, Texas – Visiting the Energy Capital of the World, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar today lauded the advanced power transmission and distribution technology adopted by CenterPoint Energy Houston, a regional utility that received a $200 million federal grant to spur its deployment of a Smart Grid that will improve efficiency and help area consumers manage and control their electricity usage.

Other Texas electric utilities shared about $58 million in Smart Grid grants, including Reliant Energy Retail Services, LLC (Houston); Golden Spread Electric Cooperative (Amarillo); Denton County Electric Cooperative; and El Pasco Electric.

“Smart Grid investments will create jobs, save energy, and empower consumers to cut their electric bills,” Secretary Salazar said during his visit to CenterPoint’s headquarters. “They will help to improve the reliability and efficiency of the electrical grid serving millions of consumers in Texas and make our country more secure.”

CenterPoint’s grant from the U.S. Department of Energy will be used to accelerate the deployment of an Advanced Metering System and install the first phase of a grid hardening and automation initiative called the Intelligent Grid. The company has already installed more than 100,000 Smart Meters that are fully functioning and will spend $639 million between 2010 and 2012 to speed the installation of 2 million additional smart meters and launch its Intelligent Grid program. The grant covers about 31 percent of the total project costs.

Smart Grid grants also went to Reliant Energy Retail Services, LLC, which received $19.9 million to be matched by $45.5 million for a total project cost of $65.5 million; Golden Spread Electric Cooperative, $19.9 million matched with $29.9 million for a total cost of $49.9 million; Denton County Electric Cooperative, $17.2 million matched by $23.8 million for a total cost of $41 million; and El Pasco Electric, $1 million matched by $1 million for a total of $2 million.

These grants are part of the largest single energy grid modernization initiative in U.S. history – a $3.4 billion investment that President Obama announced yesterday to spur the nation’s transition to smart energy technology. The grants are matched by industry funding for a total public-private investment worth more than $8 billion. The projects will create tens of thousands of jobs, and consumers in 49 states will benefit from a stronger, more reliable grid.

A regulated electric utility, CenterPoint provides transmission and distribution delivery services to more than two million metered customers in a 5,000-square-mile area of the Texas Gulf Coast, including Houston, the nation’s 4th largest city and “energy capital of the world.” Increasing the reliability and self-healing capability of CenterPoint’s electric grid is in the national interest because a significant portion of the nation’s essential energy and petrochemical facilities are located in the utility’s hurricane-susceptible service area. This Smart Grid project will also serve as a model for other electric utilities seeking to adopt the technology.

Salazar has made the modernization of the nation’s transmission infrastructure a top priority at Interior, which has already identified and designated more than 5,000 miles of energy transport corridors on the lands it manages to facilitate the siting and permitting of energy transport projects. Interior agencies are working with other federal, states, tribal governments as well as private landowners to identify the best places on the landscape for transmission facilities, especially as renewable energy generation comes on line.

Interior is processing more than 30 applications for major transmission corridor rights-of-way on lands it manages and seven of these applications – in Idaho, California, and Nevada – are being “fast tracked” and could clear the permitting process by next year. Together, these seven projects would add more than 1,000 miles of new transmission.

Today, Salazar also announced that nine federal agencies have signed a Memorandum of Understanding that will expedite the siting and permitting of electric transmission projects on federal lands. This agreement commits the participating agencies to close coordination and a number of procedures to improve the federal process under existing authorities, including establishing a single point of contact for all required federal authorizations.