The Obama Administration has pinned much of its economic recovery efforts on an infusion of dollars into a massive campaign to upgrade and overhaul the nation’s energy generation and delivery systems. The theory behind this effort seems to be that an energy- sector boom could help jump start the larger economy and steer the nation out of recession by stimulating growth, incentivizing investments and, most importantly, creating jobs.

It may be too early to tell whether the strategy is paying off, but the administration is sticking to its agenda. Borrowing from Franklin D. Roosevelt and the New Deal, announcements come out frequently about another infusion of stimulus dollars into some aspect of its recasting of the nation’s energy mold.

The smart grid is one of the cornerstones of this new foundation, and in April, U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu announced a selection of awards from the Department of Energy totaling nearly $100 million for 54 smart grid work force training programs. The projects will leverage more than $95 million in funding from community colleges, universities, utilities and manufacturers to develop and implement training programs. They will train an estimated 30,000 Americans to modernize the nation’s electrical grid and implement smart grid technologies.

The awards come on top of more than $4 billion in Recovery Act funding for smart grid deployment and demonstration projects.

Chu said that “building and operating smart grid infrastructure will put tens of thousands of Americans to work.” He added that it is “a great opportunity for workers to upgrade their skills and earn more or for laid off workers from other industries to start fresh in a new and growing field.”
Chu explained that the programs will focus on training activities that support the full gamut of specialties, including electricians, line workers, technicians, system operators, power system engineers, cyber security specialists and transmission planners. Workers will receive training on transmission and distribution systems as well as new intelligent grid systems, such as smart meters, phasor measurement sensors and advanced communication networks.