Despite challenges, grid modernization is paying off for customers. Smart grid progress depends on clarifying the vision and communicating value.
Proving Smart-Grid Savings
Real-world projects show tangible returns.
see if they made sense for the organization.” So, about 10 years ago, the utility began a trial advanced-metering infrastructure system.
Over time, the utility implemented automated meter readings, allowing it to save on manpower costs. But the system wasn’t entirely hardcore savings. The payback time initially looked like it could be anywhere between eight to 15 years. “However, the payback drops dramatically based on how much demand response you can achieve by it,” Kimball says. With the DOE grant, MID is now looking at using its meters as part of a voltage/var control and conservation voltage reduction program in order to lower demand. “We think that can be an effective demand-response tool.”
• Returns: MID performed some trials on its system for running the distribution circuits at minimum utilization voltage. Manually, the utility saw 2 to 3 percent potential savings on demand during summer months. “That’s huge,” Kimball says. “Once we get the system up and it can perform that automatically with our substation load tap changers and our capacitor controls for power factor control, as well as our voltage sensing that’s coming out of our AMI meters—if that all really works—it can be a huge saver.” The utility also hopes to see a 5-percent reduction just from time-of-use rates, but that will be tested as well to see if the savings are achievable.
• Timeline: MID plans to start its pilot volt/var conservation voltage reduction program in the third quarter of this year. Time-of-use rates likely will be introduced next year, along with a voluntary program for residential customers to show them what their energy usage is in order to achieve additional demand reduction.