Progress Energy has been awarded a $200 million grant by the U.S. Department of Energy to add "intelligence" to the systems used to deliver electricity to more than 3.1 million households and businesses in the Carolinas and Florida, officials said Wednesday.

In addition to providing the Raleigh-based utility real-time information about the state of their electric grids, the "smart grid" transition will enable customers to understand and manage their energy use better and will provide for more efficient integration of renewable energy resources.

"The way our customers use electricity is changing," Bill Johnson, Progress Energy chairman, president and chief executive, said in a statement. "We are also changing the way we produce and deliver the power they need to run their daily lives. Our investments in the grid will allow customers greater transparency and control over their energy use, and they will allow our utilities to expand our use of alternative technologies, such as renewable energy and advanced transportation."

Progress Energy will also invest more than $300 million in smart grid projects. The total investment could create up to 500 jobs.

Through its EnergyWise program, Progress Energy’s utilities already actively manage about 400,000 of their customers’ energy use during times of high energy demand to help ensure the reliable delivery of power across the company’s service territories. These voluntary programs help customers save energy and money, and they help the utilities delay the need for new power plants.

In expanding the program, the company will install 160,000 smart meters capable of two-way communication. Smart meters capture information that, once new technology becomes available, will allow customers to view and control their energy use. Information also flows to the utility, alerting dispatchers to power outages and other problems, allowing the utility to begin repairs and restore service more quickly and making it unnecessary for the customer to call to report outages.

Progress Energy will also invest in additional public infrastructure for plug-in electric vehicles to quickly respond to the customer adoption expected in the company’s service territories.