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Obama Unveils $3.4B Plan to Update US Energy Grid

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U.S. President Barack Obama says the government will spend $3.4 billion to update the nation's energy infrastructure with new technologies. The president made the announcement Tuesday at a solar power facility in Florida.

President Obama stood in front of a sea of solar power collectors and said his administration is funding a massive update of the U.S. energy distribution network.

"We are making the largest-ever investment in a smarter, stronger and more secure electric grid," he said.

The $3.4 billion expenditure is part of the $787-billion economic stimulus plan Congress passed and Mr. Obama signed early this year. The money will be matched by industry and will pay for 100 projects to modernize the power system.

The president was speaking at the DeSoto Next Generation Solar Energy Center in Arcadia, Florida. He said the plant will produce enough power to serve the entire town of about 7,000 people.

Mr. Obama compared the initiative to update the power grid with the development of the U.S. Interstate highway system in the 1950's.

"It is time to make the same kind of investment in the way our energy travels, to build a clean-energy superhighway that can take the renewable power generated in places like DeSoto and deliver it directly to the American people in the most affordable and efficient way possible," he said.

The president said the projects include installing so-called smart electric meters in homes, as well as supporting efforts to use more alternative energy.

"We can imagine the day when you will be able to charge the battery on your plug-in hybrid car at night, because your smart meter reminded you that nighttime electricity is cheapest," said Mr. Obama.

Some of those plug-in hybrid cars are expected to be produced at a former General Motors assembly plant in Delaware. Vice President Joe Biden visited the plant, in his home state, which the small luxury car company Fisker Automotive has bought.

"The batteries for these vehicles-the electric muscle-is going to come from companies based in the United States of America, because this administration is investing billions of dollars in battery technology, right here in the United States of America," he said.

Fisker recently received approval for more than $528 million in government loans to develop the electric cars. Production is expected to start in 2012.