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The Associated Press March 24, 2010, 11:31AM ET

CenterPoint Energy gets $200M smart grid grant

CenterPoint Energy Inc. said it has signed an agreement with the Energy Department to formalize the $200 million stimulus grant that the company is receiving to accelerate its installation of smart meters and make its systems more reliable in the Houston area.

CenterPoint is one of six utilities to receive the maximum grant from the Energy Department. Negotiations between the two over the award began in November.

CenterPoint asked for $150 million to accelerate its installation of smart electric meters.

In the past year, CenterPoint Energy Houston Electric has installed 267,000 smart meters. With the aid of the grant, it expects to complete installation of more than 2 million smart meters by 2012 rather than 2014 as originally planned.

CenterPoint said Tuesday that the remaining $50 million of its grant will be used to make its systems in the Houston area more efficient and reliable.

Helped by the stimulus program, utilities across the country are able to roll out the meters more quickly than expected.

The meters are part of a push to make the electric grid more efficient and reliable. The meters will provide homeowners more details about how they use electricity and send a signal to the utility if power goes out.

CenterPoint, based in Houston, has 5 million customers in Arkansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Oklahoma and Texas.

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