FPL Group's chief executive officer said on Monday that the company's Florida utility's $200 million smart grid initiative will link homes and power plants and support expanding use of solar power and electric cars.
Working with General Electric, Cisco Systems and Silver Springs Networks, Florida Power & Light's Energy Smart Miami program will install more than 1 million smart meters in Miami-Dade County homes and businesses and create an automated grid in the next two years.
The partners hope to tap federal economic stimulus funds to spur the initial investment, which they said could create 800 to 1,000 jobs in Florida. FP&L eventually plans to spend another $500 million to expand smart-grid technology to all 4.5 million Florida customers.
Utilities across the country are introducing smart electric meters that give customers information to monitor energy use to take advantage of lower-priced power at different times of day. The meters also communicate with the utility to prevent or minimize power outages.
The Obama administration has called for a stronger, smarter electric grid to improve the nation's energy security and energy-efficiency efforts and to create new jobs to revitalize the struggling economy.
Likening the smart-grid technology to the introduction of the Internet, Cisco CEO John Chambers said homes will be connected for electricity as well as communication needs.
The opportunity is probably one of the four of five new concepts that will grow on a global basis with dramatic job creation everywhere, Chambers said.
For GE, it is one of our most important growth initiatives, said Jeffrey Immelt, GE chief executive.
Scott Lang, Silver Spring Networks CEO, said his company, founded in 2002, already has networking contracts with U.S. utilities representing 20 percent of the nation's population and recently added a project in Australia.
While FPL's plan is to connect its 4.5 million customers, there are 150 million homes in the U.S. that will need to be networked, said Lang. That's the market we look at.
FPL's program also calls for integrating solar energy facilities at several local universities and government sites to help meet energy needs with renewable power that produces no pollution.
The Juno Beach, Florida-based utility plans to add 300 electric vehicles to its fleet and to install 50 charging stations to set the stage for wider use of plug-in vehicles in South Florida.
For FPL, Hay said the program is not about revenue growth, but customer service and finding ways to accommodate more renewable power on the U.S. grid.
We have to crack the code in upgrading our grid to take more renewable power so this is will help continue driving growth in our renewable business, Hay said.
FPL's NextEra Energy Resources unit, the largest renewable power generator in North America, has power plants in 25 states.
(Editing by Christian Wiessner)