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Tomorrow's T&D

The most economical energy savings might be found in grid efficiency.

Fortnightly Magazine - February 2010

methodology for quantifying criteria such as measurement and verification (M&V), cost-benefit analysis, total losses reduced, CO 2 reduced etc.

The aim is to create the same level of understanding as already has been done for potential efficiency improvements in generation and end use. These demonstration projects can help verify and establish M&V protocols and metrics for quantifying the improvements, and serve as the basis for efficiency accounting.

In August 2009, an executive committee of industry stakeholders recommended to move forward with the development of an industry-wide transmission efficiency demonstration that will identify technologies leading to greater efficiency in the bulk power system, an increase in system utilization and a reduction in line and equipment losses. The initiative’s goal is to understand efficiency improvements and apply that knowledge when operating the grid and when upgrading existing transmission lines or building new lines.

These workshops identified three focus areas for improving efficiencies, including:

1. Reduce System Losses: Efficiency and loss reduction must be viewed from an overall system impact perspective. There are numerous approaches to reducing system losses. These include increasing nominal voltage ( e.g., new lines or voltage upgrades), dispatch considerations to relieve flows from overloaded or higher loss lines to less congested and lower-loss lines, coordinated voltage control across the system to reduce VAR flow, and other means of power flow control.

2. Reduce Line and Equipment Losses: Electricity providers are studying numerous methods to reduce losses from lines and equipment components as a way to improve overall transmission efficiency. The key contributors to transmission losses are the lines and the substation equipment. The transformer is the principal loss contributor within the substation. Electricity providers are investigating low-loss lines and configurations, low-loss transformers and auxiliary equipment. Superconductivity also might be applicable in some cases.

3. Increase Line and System Utilization: Efficient transmission seeks to optimize utilization of assets and resources including right-of-way, materials, labor, time and dollars. As the industry retires older, less-efficient assets and builds new higher-voltage, more-efficient systems, increasing the utilization will allow greater throughput on existing corridors by adding storage and control technologies that will enable integration of higher levels of renewable resources.

“This is a timely initiative in that it comes as the government and industry work together to improve the efficiency of the transmission system,” said FERC Chairman Jon Wellinghoff. “Clearly, implementing new technologies on the bulk power system would benefit both the industry and consumers, while at the same time, reducing the sector’s carbon footprint.”

Unlocking Potential

Technology isn’t the only limiting factor in improving the efficiency of our electric system.

Utilities need to be incented to implement efficiency measures whether they are for end-use or delivery. As society has recognized the importance of end-use efficiency, it might find the additional power delivery efficiency gains just as valuable, which might lead to similar incentive mechanisms.

Efficiency can either offset or defer new generation and delivery assets investments. There are regulatory instruments in place to recoup generation or transmission investments. The same holds true for many end-use efficiency programs. However, these instruments might be missing for T&D