PowerGrid International Reveals Projects of the Year AWARd Winners

By Kathleen Davis, Senior Editor

The editors of POWERGRID International named four winners for the magazine’s annual Projects of the Year Awards program.

The winners were selected for four specific categories: Best Energy Efficiency/Demand Response Project, Best Grid Integration of Renewables Project, Best Smart Grid Project and Best Smart Metering Project. 

Best Energy Efficiency/Demand Response Project 

The winner of the Energy Efficiency/Demand Response Project of the Year Award is National Grid for its Comparative Home Energy Reporting Program.

National Grid is an international energy-delivery company. In the U.K., National Grid owns the high-voltage electricity transmission network in England and Wales and operates the system across Great Britain. In the U.S., National Grid delivers electricity to approximately 3.3 million customers in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York and Rhode Island and manages the electricity network on Long Island under an agreement with the Long Island Power Authority (LIPA).

National Grid’s Tom Baron, analyst, residential program operations, energy products, accepts the award from editor-in-chief Teresa Hansen at DistribuTECH 2011.

In October 2009, National Grid launched one of the most innovative energy efficiency programs in the U.S., based on the comparative home energy reports program of OPOWER, a leader in the energy efficiency and smart grid market. National Grid uses the Home Energy Reporting Program as part of a much broader strategy to go deeper and wider in achieving energy savings and helping customers learn how they can reduce energy consumption and their monthly bills.

The Home Energy Report is an energy-efficiency tool that provides gas and electricity customers information about their energy usage. The report anonymously compares customers’ energy use with their neighbors of similar home size and fuel type, employing the theory that people take action when provided comparative information about what others are doing. With the Home Energy Report, National Grid customers can view the past 12 months of their household energy usage and anonymously compare and contrast their energy consumption and costs. A Web-based application also allows customers to track their usage and access additional energy saving tips online.

A look at the winning National Grid home energy report.

National Grid initially introduced the program to 25,000 electric and 25,000 gas customers in Massachusetts in October 2009. Encouraged by early customer responses and savings, National Grid has twice expanded the program, bringing the current totals to 125,000 electric and 100,000 natural gas customers.

Through this program, National Grid expects individual electric customer savings to average as much as 260 kWhrs annually—more than 32,500 MWhrs of saved electricity annually—through behavioral changes and by employing the energy-efficiency tips offered in the Home Energy Reports.

The Home Energy Report supports National Grid’s “three percent less campaign,” under which National Grid challenges customers to reduce energy consumption by 3 percent annually over the next decade. The Home Energy Reports program is one of several energy efficiency programs that align with National Grid’s more than 20-year effort to help customers reduce their energy consumption through energy-efficiency.

By embarking on the three percent less campaign and launching the Home Energy Reporting Program in particular, National Grid has taken extraordinary and unique steps to engage its customers and provide them with insight they need to understand and reduce their in-home energy use.

National Grid believes that many customers simply lack context for defining precisely what the amount of energy they are using in their home means, and the OPOWER Home Energy Reports provide that context. The report gives customers the opportunity to evaluate and make informed decisions regarding small changes in their usage behavior that have the potential to result in substantial savings.

Finalists in the 2011 Energy Efficiency/Demand Response Project of the Year category also included Glendale Water & Power’s Energy Storage & HVAC Replacement Program and the California ISO’s Demand Response System for Managing California Proxy Demand Resources. 

Best Grid Integration of Renewables Project 

The winner of the Grid Integration of Renewables Project of the Year Award is ESB Network for its EPRI-assisted Smart Grid Demonstration Project.

Ireland’s 200,000 kilometers (nearly 125,000 miles) of electricity transmission and distribution networks are owned by ESB Networks (ESBN), which also operates the distribution system.

As part of the country’s commitment to climate change, the government has targeted 40 percent of electricity to come from renewable sources by 2020. To achieve the governmental target, more 6,000 MW of connected wind will be required on a system that will have a peak load of less than 5,500 MW. Approximately 50 percent of the connected capacity will come from smaller wind generators connected at distribution voltage levels.

ESBN’s smart grid project began in 2009 and will continue until 2012 before it completes the entire initiative (with 2010 being a productive year for renewable integration in the project). The final targets will introduce technological challenges, including meeting frequency, voltage and VAR requirements. Because the island of Ireland has no synchronous connection to other systems and limited asynchronous interconnection, little flexibility exists and wind generation already has been curtailed on occasions when loads were insufficient.

The wind integration portion of ESBN’s effort comprises three projects which investigate novel wind farm control strategies: control of reactive power (Project A), control of wind farm voltage rise using voltage regulation close to demand (Project B) and design of a low cost substation interface between larges amounts of medium voltage (MV) connected wind (Project C).

Project A is focused on reactive power control at two distribution connected wind farms through use of voltage control implemented at the wind farm sites. The impact of creating a self sustaining community of wind farms connected at 38kV includes exploring different modes of operation. The unique project configuration requires an in-depth knowledge of how control measures will be implemented, including the development of operational methodologies. This project is determining the full capability of wind farms for system support and could eliminate some technology requrements, including static VAR controllers, reducing connection costs to avoid traditional investments.

ESB Network’s Teresa Fallon, manager, smart networks, accepts the award from editor-in-chief Teresa Hansen at DistribuTECH 2011.

Project B includes wind farm voltage rise control using voltage regulation close to demand centers. Using a voltage regulator in a novel configuration to reduce rather than increase network voltage near the demand customers, the effects on network and power quality are being uncovered. During the summer of 2010, the 38kV voltage regulator and associated instrumentation were installed on the network in Rathmore to assess the operation of the voltage regulator and the voltage at each critical point on the network. This information helped ESBN understand performance and the impacts of the voltage regulator in this configuration.

Project C of the wind integration includes the design of a low cost 110kV/MV and 110/38kV substation interfacing between large amounts (up to 63MVA) of MV-connected wind. This is a new direction for substation design, which has traditionally focused on continuity and reliability for load customers. ESBN feels, however, that it is vital that such connection types to be investigated with more wind farms connected at MV. Economics vs risk to service quality of this unconventional configuration and protection issues are being assessed through field implementation.

ESBNs’ projects are innovative, comprehensive, deeply relevant and absolutely vital as wind penetration increases. Optimal connection configurations and new methodologies to fully exploit the inherent capabilities of wind generation for system support will ensure that wind penetration in Ireland grows steadily and securely. Technological advances and expertise achieved through this project are applicable world wide from both an operational and economical perspective.

“The expertise, methods and techniques developed in these projects leave ESB Networks with a leading technical ability for the connection of distributed renewable generation and the operation of networks with world leading penetrations of these green energy sources,” said Teresa Fallon, manager, smart networks at ESB Networks. “This development greatly increases the potential for smaller distribution connected wind farms.”

Finalists in the 2011 Grid Integration of Renewables category also included PSE&G’s Solar 4 All Program and the Midwest ISO’s Real-time Integration of Wind Energy Initiative. 

Best Smart Grid Project 

The winner of the Smart Grid Project of the Year Award is Salt River Project (SRP) for the utility’s Smart Grid Consumer Initiatives.

SRP, the third-largest public power utility in the United States and the largest provider of electricity to the greater Phoenix metropolitan area, wanted to implement a smart grid solution that would increase customer satisfaction, improve services and lessen energy consumption during peak hours. To achieve this, SRP selected Elster smart meters to be deployed at nearly 1 million residential, commercial and industrial locations. The deployment has enabled the utility to enact and expand time-of-use (TOU) pricing programs, improve responsiveness to customers, and provide customers with valuable insight into billing and consumption patterns.

A technician installs a smart meter during SRP’s smart metering upgrade.

“In the midst of the smart grid project, SRP, like many companies, was faced with the challenges of the current economy,” said Michael Lowe, customer services executive with Salt River Project. “In the end, our greatest challenge was to enhance service while creating a solution that lowered our overall cost and empowered consumers to lower their energy bills.”

As an early adopter of advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) technology, SRP deployed approximately 580,000 Elster REX residential and ALPHA commercial and industrial smart meters and is using the data collected to support customer service. It also has saved money and reduced its impact on the environment. SRP customers now can monitor and manage their energy use, and SRP has seen a 20 percent increase in time-of-use (TOU) billing program participation. In addition, SRP has improved customer service with daily remote meter reads, remotely activated electricity connects and disconnects, a Web portal where consumers can monitor their own energy usage, and billing and consumption notifications via email and text messages.

Mark Munday, president and CEO of Elster Solutions, and Michael W. Lowe, customer services executive with Salt River Project accept the award from editor-in-chief Teresa Hansen at DistribuTECH 2011.

“In fiscal year 2010, customers’ aggregate energy savings exceeded our annual goal by 11 percent,” Lowe said.

The smart grid deployment was received favorably by SRP’s customers. SRP has scored highest in customer satisfaction for business and residential electric service among large electric utilities in the western United States for nine consecutive years, and 11 of the past 12 years. In fact, SRP is the only electric utility that has been ranked among the top 10 in the nation in all 12 of the years that J.D. Power has conducted the study.

SRP estimates that its smart grid solution, powered by Elster’s EnergyAxis, has allowed it to save more than 341,000 in labor hours, avoid more than 1.7 million driving miles and conserve 169,000 gallons of fuel. SRP’s smart grid deployment enables the utility to remotely complete more than 25,000 individual service orders every month. These service orders are conducted 24 hours a day, seven days a week for the utmost in flexibility and responsiveness.

SRP has now set forth plans to use its United States Department of Energy (DOE) Smart Grid Investment Grant (SGIG) award to double its smart grid deployment.

“With the money saved through increasing our efficiency, we can reinvest in adopting more smart metering technology and, in-turn, help customers conserve more energy and reduce electricity costs,” Lowe said.

Finalists in the 2011 Smart Grid Project of the Year category were EDF’s Project PREMIO and OG&E’s Positive Energy Smart Grid Program. 

Best Smart Metering Project 

The winner of the Smart Metering Project of the Year Award is Southern California Edison (SCE) for the Edison SmartConnect program.

SCE serves more than 14 million people in a 50,000 square-mile area of central, coastal and southern California. Edison SmartConnect is the company’s $1.6 billion dollar advanced metering program that will replace approximately 5 million traditional electric meters with smart meters and other advanced technologies that will empower customers to conserve energy and save money.

A look inside SCE’s meter lab

“Today, customers receive usage information once per month as part of their bill,” said Ken Devore, director of Edison SmartConnect. “Soon, Edison SmartConnect will enable customers with smart meters to view near real-time energy use information from a computer, cell phone or other device.”

The program began in 2005 with a focus on research. SCE took a clean slate approach to developing Edison SmartConnect to ensure it would offer advanced benefits and functionality beyond those required by California state regulation or offered by existing, off-the-shelf technologies. The result was Edison SmartConnect’s added customer value features. These include two-way communication from the smart meter, more detailed energy use information and home area networking capability—all built on a secure and open standards platform.

SCE’s Ken Devore, director of the Edison SmartConnect program, and Lynda Ziegler, executive vice president of power delivery, accept the award from editor-in-chief Teresa Hansen at DistribuTECH 2011.

Edison SmartConnect’s overarching goal is to build a smarter, cleaner energy future with its customers. The company says the program is a key component of its smart grid strategy and will revolutionize the way customers use energy. By enabling new programs and tools, such as dynamic pricing and online energy use information, smart meters will empower customers to make informed energy use decisions to help them save energy, money and reduce their carbon footprint.

Edison SmartConnect smart meter installations began in September 2009, and SCE will install about 5 million smart meters for residential and small business customers through 2012. As of July 2010, Edison SmartConnect achieved its targeted deployment of 1 million meters.

Remote firmware download allows SCE to upgrade the functionality of the meters over the air instead of revisiting each installed meter. In October 2010, Edison SmartConnect successfully completed firmware download to more than 850,000 meters and is prepared to continue to use this functionality going forward.

In October and November 2010, Edison SmartConnect reached key milestones with the successful implementation of the meter data management system, an interval data warehouse and customer Web presentment. These back office systems and processes enable interval billing and remote service switch functionality for customers.

The deployment continues with meter installation at an average of more than 8,000 meters per day, and Edison SmartConnect is fast approaching 2 million meters installed. As deployment and simultaneous roll out of new customer functionality continue, the program remains focused on sound execution as the complexity and level of activity increases.

As deployment efforts continue, Edison SmartConnect also is focused on customer engagement. A thoughtful customer communication strategy is necessary for Edison SmartConnect to educate customers about smart meter-enabled new programs and services. The customer outreach and education approach to date has been multi-pronged in order to generate awareness and understanding of the program’s progress and customer benefits. One of the highlights of Edison SmartConnect’s customer communications was the May 2010 unveiling of the Carl & Eddy “edutainment” video vignettes now appearing on www.YouTube.com/SCE. The 10 English and Spanish vignettes offer a unique and ground-breaking approach to educating customers and stakeholders about Edison SmartConnect in easy to understand concepts and messages.

Edison SmartConnect also is engaged in ongoing outreach efforts with the community, local government, legislators, regulatory agencies, non-profit organizations and faith-based organizations. The program understands that many sources of information exist for SCE’s customers. The utility is working to educate and promote awareness of Edison SmartConnect to ensure all customers are able to use the functionality to help them save energy, money and the environment.

“The steps we accomplished in 2010 were a foundational part of delivering on the promise we made to our customers,” Devore said. “But we’re not done yet; we plan to continue the job and execute well on the rest of the implementation of this program.”

Finalists in the 2011 Smart Metering Project of the Year category were Portland General Electric’s System-wide Wireless Smart Metering System and San Deigo Gas & Electric’s 2010 Smart Meter Program. 

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The Clarion Energy Content Team is made up of editors from various publications, including POWERGRID International, Power Engineering, Renewable Energy World, Hydro Review, Smart Energy International, and Power Engineering International. Contact the content lead for this publication at Jennifer.Runyon@ClarionEvents.com.

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