Customer Service, DER-Grid Edge, Smart Grid

Portland General Electric opens smart grid test bed

Portland General Electric Co. launched its Smart Grid Test Bed, a project that will integrate smart grid technology and accelerate PGE’s vision for a clean energy future.

PGE’s test bed spans three distinct neighborhoods within its service area. Through the test bed, the company is preparing more than 20,000 customers to take advantage of special demand-response signals as well as incentives for using smart-home technologies, giving them greater control over their energy use and carbon footprint.  

With this pilot, PGE is building the roadmap to a virtual power plant — one powered by customer devices and behaviors rather than traditional generation — that will help address climate change, empower communities in how they consume energy and create a more resilient power system, all while saving customers money.

PGE will make this a seamless experience for customers by helping them automate their smart devices, such as thermostats, water heaters, electric vehicle chargers and batteries, to work in concert with PGE as it operates the grid. 

During times when demand for electricity is especially high in the region, customers will be able to decide on an event-by-event basis if they want to participate in reducing or shifting their energy consumption. Additionally, the entire region will benefit as PGE integrates even more renewable energy resources into its power supply without compromising grid safety, security or reliability.

Earlier this week, residents in the test bed neighborhoods were automatically enrolled into PGE’s Peak Time Rebates, a demand-response program that rewards customers for shifting their energy use during times when temperatures are particularly hot or cold.

Auto-enrollment will help PGE achieve its target participation rate of at least 66% — approximately ten times the national average for similar programs. This will provide valuable insight into customer interactions with the programs and opportunities to demonstrate the benefits of adopting smart grid technologies at an unprecedented scale. PGE will share these learnings broadly for the benefit of the entire energy community.

Throughout this multi-year pilot, PGE will offer different programs and incentives to understand how best to partner with all types of customers, and how to offer more equitable solutions. The pilot will explore topics including:

• Structuring programs that best fit varying customer needs.

• Automating programs so they’re convenient for customers.

• Working with partners on next-generation offerings.

• Background on the project

PGE will leverage advanced communications capabilities and distribution system upgrades within three Oregon cities: Hillsboro, Portland and Milwaukie. Three substations in these cities will also be equipped with other smart grid technologies such as new remote controls that increase system reliability and enhanced safety and cyber security.

The test bed will accelerate the development of distributed resources, which include customer-hosted renewables like rooftop solar; flexible resources like batteries, thermostats and water heaters; and electric vehicle charging. The project will rely on PGE’s unique ability to partner with customers.

The project was conceived and is being overseen by energy regulators in Oregon. To accelerate the concept, PGE developed the pilot with guidance from the Rocky Mountain Institute, one of nation’s top sustainability consultants. The project is being steered by an advisory committee of local and national subject matter experts from the public and private sectors.