Utility/Vendor partnership to apply for smart grid demo dollars


23 April 2009 – The Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) is looking to establish a regional partnership of utilities and vendors to apply for a chunk of the $615 million designated for smart grid demonstration projects as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

The competition for the federal smart grid dollars is expected to be stiff, though criteria for who gets the funds is yet to be determined.  BPA says it expects federal dollars will be rewarded based on both the merits of project concepts and the ability of recipients provide at least 50 percent in matching funds, either monetary or in-kind. The Portland-based federal agency, which operates the Federal Columbia River Power System and distributes the electrical power generated by them, says it has committed $10 million to the project and is looking for three to five utilities willing the chip in the same amount or more.

Details of BPA’s plan, such as the location of the project, are uncertain, as is the exact timeline. Yet things are expected to happen quickly, Pruder says. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) expects to distribute all funds by Fall 2010.

BPA says it is also looking to partner with utilities as well as vendors on research and project design. According to DOE, regional demonstration projects should verify the viability of technologies, quantify details about costs and benefits and assess business models. Through two-way communication and control, BPA expects its plan to enable integration of renewables, microgrids and demand-response.

While stimulus dollars could help launch a regional smart grid pilot, Pruder says BPA hopes to parlay any funds it receives into a long-term collaborative project.