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The Public Utilities Commission (PUC) of Hawaii has approved Kauai Island Utility Cooperative's (KIUC) request to commit funds to a national smart grid demonstration project.

The project, which is part of a national effort by the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, will cost approximately $11.9 million - half of which will be funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

KIUC will replace approximately 33,000 electric meters with smart meters, along with an enhanced communications infrastructure that will allow two-way communications between those meters and KIUC.

The new infrastructure will allow KIUC to conduct remote meter readings, detect outages at the household level, as well as demonstrate the effectiveness of load control and demand-response systems, according to the utility.

KIUC anticipates that the installation of the meters will begin in 2012. The five-year process will include two years of installation of new meters at members' homes and installation of communications infrastructure to assess smart grid effectiveness, and three years of data gathering and analysis.

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