SDG&E Leads Cleantech Coalition to Upgrade ‘Smart Grid,’ Pursue Stimulus Funds
San Diego Gas & Electric has formed a coalition with the non-profit group Cleantech San Diego, UC San Diego, and major companies like Qualcomm, IBM, and Intel to integrate emerging “smart grid” technologies in the public utility’s regional power grid.
The coalition’s goal is to develop and deploy a host of innovations, including renewable energy generation, new types of energy storage systems, advanced electric transmission and distribution technologies, advanced sensors, and wireless “smart meters.” It also plans to seek $100 million in federal economic stimulus funding, part of more than $4.5 billion in smart grid funding designated by the Obama Administration as part of its new national energy policy.
Smart grid technology also is intended to enable residential utility customers to use the Internet to monitor their home energy consumption. SDG&E, the public utility operated by San Diego’s Sempra Energy (NYSE: SRE), began installing digital smart meters in suburban San Diego last year. The meters monitor each customer’s electricity and gas usage and use Zigbee wireless networking technology to regularly transmit data to the utility’s computerized information center.
The coalition SDG&E put together includes state agencies, a labor union, academic researchers, and companies developing such technologies, such as GE, Cisco, Itron, BAE Systems, SAIC, BMC Software, and On-Ramp Wireless. Altogether, 28 organizations are participating in the effort.
“The stimulus dollars are matching funds, so SDG&E and the coalition are matching the amount they are requesting,” says April Bolduc, a utility spokeswoman. “SDG&E has been working with many of these companies for years on individual projects and this is the first time they’ll all be brought together to work together on interconnecting all of the projects to create a smart grid.”
SDG&E, which is leading the coalition, will pass any federal smart grid funding through to the participating tech companies to complete their work, Bolduc says. “SDG&E will be prioritizing and making decisions along with the partners.”
UC San Diego, which has invested heavily in its own energy initiatives, will provide research and development resources—along with UCLA and the Energy Policy Initiatives Center at the University of San Diego School of Law. Lisa Bicker, president of Cleantech San Diego, says their role is to explain the benefits of smart grid technologies to diverse segments of the community.