The funding opportunity announcement issued Thursday sets rules for how to apply for about $3.9 billion in grants, which will provide part of the cost of qualifying projects.
It's an important boost for utilities seeking to build out expensive two-way communication and control technologies for their electricity grids, with projects ranging from smart meter networks to sensors and controls for distribution and transmission grids.
As expected, the DOE's funding will be broken into two categories. The larger portion, about $3.3 billion, is for the Smart Grid Investment Grant Program, aimed at technologies that can be deployed on a commercial scale.
And the pressure is on to apply for those investment grants, noted John Quealy, managing director of equity research for Canaccord Adams. Letters of intent are due by July 16, and full applications are due by August 6, with awards to be announced in October, he said.
The grants will also be split up according to the size of the proposed projects, with those under $20 million to get 40 percent of the total, and larger projects between $20 million and $200 million to get 60 percent of the total, he said.
The DOE will also be giving out about $615 million for smart grid demonstration projects, for "new and more cost-effective smart grid equipment, tools, techniques, and system configurations that can significantly improve upon today's technologies." The largest grants it will give under that pool of grant funds is $100 million.
For both types of grants, the DOE has kept to its May decision to increase the maximum grant amounts from what had previously been smaller caps of $20 million for investment grants and $40 million for demonstration grants.