President Obama was in the Sunshine State today to announce a $3.4 billion federal investment in a so-called Smart Grid, which amounts to a complete overhaul of the country's energy transmission system.
The president chose the town of Arcadia, Fla., to make the announcement because it is home to the country's largest solar power production facility, which was one of the 100 projects awarded federal stimulus money through the Smart Grid grants.
Standing before a giant field, lined with close to 100,000 solar panels, President Obama addressed a small crowd of invited guests.
"We're on the cusp of a new energy future," he said as he unveiled an investment his administration says will create hundreds of thousands of jobs and reduce America's electricity usage by 4 percent by 2030. Doing so will require updating the current transmission system which the president said "wastes too much energy, it costs us too much money, and it's too susceptible to outages and blackouts."
The president compared the development of a "Smart Grid" to the creation of the country's interstate system.
"It was a tangled maze of poorly maintained back roads that were rarely the fastest or the most efficient way to get from point A to point B. Fortunately, President Eisenhower made an investment that revolutionized the way we travel -- an investment that made our lives easier and our economy grow. Now, it's time to make the same kind of investment in the way our energy travels."
The projects are located in 49 states, funded by stimulus money and were each matched at least dollar for dollar by private investment.
The projects range from modernizing the current power line system to funding solar and wind farms to installing "smart meters" in homes that allow households to monitor how much energy they use by the week, day or hour and then adjust their usage according to rate schedules.
"So coupled with other technologies," the president explained, "this is going to help you manage your electricity use and your budget at the same time, allowing you to conserve electricity during times when prices are highest, like hot summer days."
The president promised this kind of large-scale investment in renewable energy and transmission when he was pushing his stimulus plan earlier this year. And while the White House maintains that today's announcement is a big step toward creating a clean energy economy, the president said it will also require a major boost of public support.
"The creation of such an economy is going to require nothing less than the sustained effort of an entire nation -- an all-hands-on-deck approach similar to the mobilization that preceded World War II or the Apollo Project."
He also nudged Congress to get on board with his climate change bill.
"I also believe that such a comprehensive piece of legislation that is taking place right now in Congress is going to be critical."
And while he cited a consensus in Washington on the "Smart Grid" program, he acknowledged critics.
"It's a debate between looking backwards and looking forward," he said. "Between those who are ready to seize the future and those who are afraid of the future. And we know which side the United States of America has always come down on."
-- Rachel Martin and Sunlen Miller