'Smart' power grid debate goes on in South Florida

When Kevin Linn of Coral Springs received a special power meter last October, he was able to check his usage day by day and hour by hour via the Internet. He found spikes in midday when no one was home – the water heater was churning away. And he discovered his pool pump was costing more than $50 a month.

He adjusted the water heater to operate only from 5 to 7 a.m. and 8 to 10 p.m., the times his family of four needed hot water. He swapped the pool pump for a more efficient model. So far, FPL records show that he's saving about $13 a month, but Linn reports, "My bills are $100 a month less than my neighbors'."

Linn's experience may be what awaits residents of Miami-Dade County, all of whom are expected to get smart meters in the next two years as part of an ambitious project by Florida Power & Light to create what Miami Mayor Manny Diaz has called "the first truly smart-grid city in the nation."

The grid concept thrills few voters, but many leaders say it can save consumers money and help combat man-made climate change because the fastest and cheapest way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is to use less electricity.

President Barack Obama's economic stimulus package includes $4.5 billion to finance such smart grids nationwide. FPL hopes that up to half of the $200 million it plans to spend on the Miami-Dade project could be financed through stimulus funds.

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