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Utility R&D: The Cutting Edge of Competition

Fortnightly Magazine - August 1995

radiation exposure, increased worker productivity, and reduced levels of generated radioactive wastes is estimated at $35 million over five operating cycles.

Case 2:

Energy Star Program

In the early years of Con Ed's demand-side management

programs, economic as well as

environmental concerns motivated several major commercial customers to seek help in reducing their energy consumption. One customer, for example, discovered that its computers and related equipment accounted for approximately 40 percent of its total electricity consumption. After checking with major computer manufacturers, Con Ed R&D personnel concluded that technology was available to design and manufacture computers that could significantly reduce energy consumption.

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) learned about Con Ed's inquiries through EPRI, and met with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Con Ed, other utilities, as well as environmental and consumer advocates to discuss a possible alliance. Their first step was to determine how much energy reduction could reasonably be expected.

With support from DOE, New York State Energy Research & Development Administration (NYSERDA), EPRI, and others, Con Ed sponsored an MIT study of New York City to estimate the savings and feasibility of realizing savings from more energy efficient information technology. The results placed energy cost savings over a five-year period of nearly $150 million, even without equipment rebates. Cooperative efforts led to EPA's Energy Star Program, which has been credited with catalyzing the development and commercial success of new information technologies that have already led to millions of dollars of energy cost savings in the commercial sector.

Case 3:

Fault Locator

Con Ed is unique in that the bulk of its customers receive their electricity from a predominately underground transmission and distribution system. Locating faults on this congested metropolitan system can be difficult and time consuming, yet high service reliability is extremely important because the loads served (e.g., stock exchanges, insurance and banking firms, entertainment and tourist industries) can ill afford lengthy outages. Most of Con Ed's customers receive electricity from low-voltage networks. But even though a low voltage network that is supplied by approximately 24 primary voltage feeders can continue to operate even with two feeders out of service, Con Ed was concerned about the number of network feeder faults (between 1,500 and 2,000) experienced annually. The company has sought to reduce the time needed to

locate these faults and thereby

reduce the duration of outages.

Current technology enables maintenance personnel to locate faults by sending high-voltage pulses through the damaged lines and checking for the pulses along the system by entering manholes. When the signal can no longer be detected, the location of the fault is isolated to the section between manholes. Although effective, the process is time consuming, requiring six hours on average. Con Ed took its problem to Bell Laboratories, funding a project to develop an above-ground fault locator. Successful field trials found the prototype able to locate faults in less than 4 hours.

Based on the success of the prototype, Con Ed was then able to recruit EPRI and Eseerco to sponsor another project with Bell Labs to develop an even faster fault