Tantalizing hints of smart-grid riches to come

We’re not quite in the “Flintstones” era of smart-grid technology anymore, but we’ve got a long way to go before we see a “Jetsons”-like future.

A new report from the GridWise Alliance, though, offers some tantalizing hints of the benefits an advanced and intelligent energy grid could provide.

Based on interviews with GridWise Alliance members, several utilities and state regulators, “Realizing the Value of an Optimized Electric Grid” highlights some of the early results coming in at this stage of smart-grid development in the US. Among the real-world — rather than predicted or expected — payoffs reported so far:

  • A 20 percent reduction in energy consumption as a result of Pacific Gas & Electric’s energy efficiency program;
  • A 47 percent reduction (equal to 33 minutes) in the average duration of power interruptions for customers, courtesy of Southern California Edison’s distribution automation improvements;
  • A 9 percent reduction in overall energy consumption following Oklahoma Gas and Electric’s (OG&E) implementation of demand response; and
  • An overall energy consumption reduction of 1 to 2 percent due to OG&E’s use of voltage/volt-ampere reactive (Volt/VAR) control. (Volt/VAR applications use real-time data to minimize power losses and maximize distribution efficiency on the grid.)

While that last figure might not sound impressive, it’s significant because “it is achieved without any customer involvement,” states the GridWise report:

“OG&E’s experience highlights the potential energy savings if utilities across the country could achieve similar results with volt/VAR programs, however, it is understood that actual results will vary due to different utility service areas and operating conditions.”

“Grid modernization is imperative in the United States,” said James W. Morozzi, president and CEO of the GridWise Alliance. “Our economy and quality of life depends on a robust, optimized and modernized electric grid. This is an important time as decision makers look for data from completed projects to ensure that their upcoming initiatives are deployed efficiently and effectively.”

The GridWise coalition includes more than 100 utility companies, tech firms, academics and other members advocating for an updated US electricity grid.

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