President Obama is betting that adding energy responsive equipment to the nation’s power grid will increase efficiencies and put more people back to work.

The president’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act will allocate $4.5 billion in federal funds to the U.S. Department of Energy. These funds will be used to create a smart grid that will effectively connect power distributors with consumers. 

The new grid will give Americans increased protection from power outages and rolling blackouts.

“The department is still in the process of determining how to implement this requirement,” with the money allocated, said Tiffany Edwards, deputy press secretary for the DOE, in an email.

New Job Targets
An estimated 200,000 people already service the nation’s power grid, according to figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, but the new law could eventually more than double that number, say groups such as the Washington, D.C.-based GridWise Alliance, a collaborative venture with the U.S. Department of Energy.

"We see job creation potential," says the president of GridWise Alliance, Katherine Hamilton. "You’re going to need communications specialists, people who can manufacture equipment, installers and people who monitor them.”

The new automated system, won’t just create jobs. If successful, it will enable producers to read meters hundreds of miles away, detect overloads before they happen and reroute power from one part of the grid to another. The grid will also be equipped to incorporate energy from solar power cells and wind farms.

Though many of these ideas are already at work in segments of the nation’s grid, getting those segments to work together will require a workforce that can make sense of new technological tools such as advanced metering infrastructure and phasor measurement units, according to Rob Wilhite, senior vice president of intelligent networks and consulting for KEMA consulting in Burlington, Mass.

Energize Your Career
A report published jointly by GridWise Alliance and KEMA Consulting estimates that building a smart grid could account for 150,000 new jobs at the end of 2009 and as many as 280,000 at the end of four years.

And while the U.S. Department of Energy will not be hiring, according to Hamilton, the department will allow producers such as Con Edison (Stock Quote: ED), National Grid (Stock Quote: NGG) and the Tennessee Valley Authority as well as energy companies such as Beacon Power Corporation (Stock Quote: BCON) and Google (Stock Quote: GOOG) to bid on government grant money as early as this month. Successful bidders will then hire their own staff.

“Every state has utilities…as well as a regional transmission operator and various generation sources,” Hamilton said in an email.  “I would say every one of our member companies is hiring right now.”

You can find a list of those members on GridWise Alliance’s web site.

In the meantime, here is a short list of anticipated energy sector jobs that the new law is likely to create:

1. Project Leadership
Project manager
Executive assistant
Lead consultant

2. Planning
Business case manager
Systems analyst
Information technology analyst

3. Administration
Legal support
Public relations
Revenue cycle services

4.  Program Support
Budget analyst
Contracts administrator

5. Quality Assurance
Vendor manager
Test and verification supervisor
Performance analyst

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