Are utilities ready to really engage customers, and get them to care about more than just whether the beer stays cold? Or will we turn our focus away from customers, because we don’t know how to...
Consensus building is an imperative and educational art form.
new energy-management platform, intelligent metering promises to redefine the relationship between utilities and their customers, creating a customer-based information system that in time will cut across the entire utility.
The Edison Foundation estimates the utility industry will invest nearly $600 billion in distribution systems, including smart-grid technology, during the next 20 years. At that scale, coordination becomes paramount. Smart-grid planning efforts, which have been emerging on a utility-by-utility basis around the country, now are beginning to come together. In that regard, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) recently gave the Maryland Energy Administration (MEA) a grant to analyze smart-grid options for the entire state of Maryland. MEA pulled together a project team consisting of the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy, Energetics and R. W. Beck to join in the analysis and stakeholder engagement of the Smart Grid Maryland Project with two overriding goals. First, to identify strategies that can be used to help the state achieve the specific objectives of the EmPower Maryland Energy Efficiency Act of 2008 . These include a 15-percent reduction in per-capita energy use by 2015 and a 15-percent reduction in peak summer demand. The second is to develop a long-term smart-grid strategy for the state.
Smart Grid Maryland approached the project methodically, employing a five-step sequence of activities. The first task was to review the state-of-the-art of smart-grid technology, which was completed in April 2009. The second step was to conduct stakeholder forums to provide background on the project, as well as to solicit input and support. Two forums were undertaken in parallel in May 2009, one at Chesapeake College in Wye, on the Eastern shore of Maryland, the other at the University of Maryland, in College Park. The stakeholders included people from five utilities in the state, plus regulators, government officials, consultants, vendors and various advocacy groups.
The participants were given a summary of results of the first task and a quick overview of the purpose and direction for tasks three, four and five. Three will involve economic modeling of all the smart-grid elements to come up with an optimum implementation plan, the ordering or phasing in of 15 smart-grid elements. Task four is to create an overall smart-grid design, and task five is to provide regulatory and policy options for MEA to take to the Maryland Public Service Commission.
Collaboration requires a variety of techniques to keep stakeholders continuously engaged. As in the case of APS and ComEd, a Web site was created as a central repository for papers and announcements, for ongoing communication, to keep the public informed, and to provide thoughtful answers to some of the complex questions raised during the forum. A third Smart Grid Maryland stakeholder forum was scheduled for the fall of 2009 to bring participants up to speed on the results and to help keep them committed.
The project is expected to be completed in 2010. Each of the five utilities involved—Baltimore Gas & Electric, PEPCO, Allegheny Power, Delmarva Power & Light and Southern Maryland Electric Co-op—have smart-grid related pilots and programs. Smart Grid Maryland will help