The Automation Stimulus Plan-- call it Smart Grid

How much is automation going to matter to the recovery from this economic meltdown? We know the answer, and it is, "we matter plenty."

It appears that the US Administration also knows the answer. Yesterday, Vice President Biden and Secretary of Commerce (and former Washington State Governor) Gary Locke, toured the ABB transformer plant in Jefferson City, Mo., and made some important announcements about automation and the Smart Grid.

Here's the press release that ABB sent out this morning:


US Vice President visits ABB plant, praises wind project as fruit of stimulus plan

Cary, North Carolina, April 17, 2009  - U.S. Vice President Joe Biden visited the ABB distribution transformer factory in Jefferson City, Missouri, on April 16 to recognize the plant’s contribution to a wind farm in the state. Biden pointed to the Lost Creek wind project as a prime example of how funds from the U.S. federal stimulus package are creating green jobs while expanding the country’s renewable energy portfolio.

The Vice President and the Secretary of Commerce, Gary Locke, were led around the facility by its manager, Jeff Weingarten. Enrique Santacana, President and CEO of ABB in North America, joined the tour with other key participants in the 150-MW wind project that is slated to begin construction in August, including developer Wind Capital Group, utility Associated Electric Cooperative, and general contractor RMT.

Steadfast and innovative
Biden praised ABB as a “steadfast” and “innovative” company when he addressed about 300 employees and guests after the tour. He also recognized the employees of the Jefferson City plant in particular for their continued hard work in the face of uncertain economic conditions.

A surprise feature of the event came when U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke used his time at the podium to announce the creation of a new White House task force on smart grid issues. The electricity network is expected to become progressively “smarter” through greater use of advanced technologies that provide more control over power flows and fluctuations in consumer demand. In this way, intermittent power sources such as wind and solar can be better integrated into the grid.

Smart grid task force
Specifically, Locke pointed to the need for common standards to bring to the power grid the same kind of interoperability that has made technologies like ATM machines and the Internet ubiquitous.

ABB is a global leader in smart grid technology, and has already been instrumental in developing the very standards that Secretary Locke called for.

Joining the Vice President and the Secretary on stage were Missouri Governor Jay Nixon, Congressman Ike Skelton, and ABB employees Le Ann Ritter, Danny Fecthal, Dave Edwards, Wayne Cayce and Charlie Fisher, who had the honor of introducing Biden.

Jobs and energy security
After Locke’s smart grid announcement, the Vice President focused squarely on jobs. He returned often to the theme of “non-exportable jobs” that provide a good living for workers and also help move the U.S. toward greater energy independence and away from fossil fuels. He also cited the Lost Creek project as an example of how to “connect the dots” so that investments in one area, such as power transmission, can leverage investments made in others such as wind power.

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