LEWISTON — The Obama administration has awarded nearly $96 million in stimulus funds to Central Maine Power Co. to invest in “Smart Grid” technology in Maine, U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, announced Tuesday.

 The technology includes “smart meters” to help consumers use electricity when demand is low and when rates are cheaper — for example, by running dishwashers and other energy-thirsty appliances in the middle of the night, according to The Associated Press. It also includes automating utility substations and installing thousands of new digital transformers and grid sensors.

 The $95.9 million CMP grant is part of $3.4 billion in Smart Grid technology funds awarded nationwide through the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act. The federal money will be matched with industry funds in a public-private partnership that will result in a $8 billion investment, according to a White House release. 

CMP submitted an application for the grant and plans to install a smart meter network for all residential, commercial and industrial customers in its service territory, a total of about 650,000 meters. The company will match the grant with its own investment for a total project cost of about $200 million, according to Pingree’s office.

“Smart meter technology will accelerate CMP’s plans to complete its Advanced Metering Infrastructure and allow customers to see in ‘real time’ how much electricity they are using,” Collins said in a statement.

CMP plans to begin installing the meters early next year; all of the new meters should be installed by mid-2012, according to Pingree.

“The meters that we have on our houses today were invented early in the last century,” Pingree said. “Smart meters are going to bring the Maine energy consumer into the 21st century. ”

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