U.S. to spend $3.9 billion on "smart" power grid: Chu

SAN FRANCISCO Thu Jun 25, 2009 8:04pm EDT

A Florida Power & Light Company employee works on a power pole in Pembroke Pines, Florida in this February 26, 2008 file photo. REUTERS/Eric Thayer

A Florida Power & Light Company employee works on a power pole in Pembroke Pines, Florida in this February 26, 2008 file photo.

Credit: Reuters/Eric Thayer

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SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced on Thursday $3.9 billion in "smart grid" funding aimed at making power transmission around the country more flexible.

Addressing utility executives at an industry meeting, Chu said the funds would help create a system to allocate electricity more efficiently, whether through improved power lines or by allowing batteries in hybrid cars to feed back into the grid when needed.

"Right now, the way we distribute energy, it's like plumbing, it's down the hill," he told reporters at a news conference after his speech to the Edison Electric Institute conference in San Francisco.

Asked about people objecting to high-voltage power lines being built near their homes as part of a smart grid, Chu said he would appeal to U.S. national interests.

"People didn't like interstate highways in their backyard," he said. "But it was done for the sake of national security, and I would say even more so we will need a transmission distribution system for our national security."

Chu also said in his speech that California would receive $90 million from his department to spend on energy efficiency measures.

(Reporting by Braden Reddall; Editing by Marguerita Choy)

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