Portland General Electric continues efforts on smart grid in Oregon

Portland General Electric, in its fourth Smart Grid Annual Report recently filed with the Oregon Public Utility Commission, said that it has made considerable investments in smart grid initiatives, staff and research, and that it has completed, is deploying, or considering more than 50 smart grid initiatives across the company.

PGE said that those initiatives span three categories:

·      Foundational — Hardware and software that enable deployment of smart grid initiatives, allow customers to realize maximize value of smart grid initiatives and improve cybersecurity. These initiatives include advanced metering infrastructure (AMI); communication upgrades; energy management system and automated generation control; and real-time contingency analysis

·      Grid optimization — Transmission, substation and distribution systems investments in hardware, software, technologies, and processes that improve system reliability and efficiency, increase flexibility of grid integration, enhance the ability to reduce peak demand, and reduce overall utility operation costs. These initiatives include substation remote access server; substation automation; distribution automation; energy storage; solar grid integration systems; as well as transmission and distribution (T&D) asset monitoring

·      Customer engagement — Investments in pricing, demand response and distributed energy resources programs that make customers active participants in the provisioning of energy services, while improving the customer experience, saving energy, enhancing customer reliability, and reducing peak demand. These initiatives include dispatchable standby generation; microgrids; demand response; and battery back-up

The company noted that the OPUC in 2012 issued an order establishing the commission’s smart grid policy goals and objectives, utility reporting requirements, and guidelines for utility actions related to smart grid.

PGE noted that last year, it began a process to identify gaps and dependencies between its strategies and to develop a clear cross-company vision, road map, and strategic approach to integrating and deploying smart grid technologies.

A smart grid task force evaluated industry best practices in smart grid deployment, to update the company’s smart grid vision, and to establish a smart grid future state and road map, PGE said, adding that the task force explored inputs from key subject matter experts from across the organization to define a model that is best for PGE and its customers.

Discussing the status of current smart grid initiatives, under the “foundational” category, PGE noted that it has completed installing digital smart meters at more than 825,000 customer locations along with dozens of communication towers.

PGE also said that it has begun an advanced analytics pilot program to leverage the massive amounts of new data available through intelligent electronic devices on the T&D system. That pilot project is using existing data streams, such as AMI data, to produce actionable information required to enhance planning and operations activities on PGE’s T&D system. In future years, PGE added, the company will continue to evaluate evolving best practices and will use the analytics platform to perform circuit analysis.

Feeder-level insights using aggregated AMI data will help inform asset management initiatives, the company said, adding that anticipated results include improved service restoration times, increased system modeling accuracy and capabilities, and enhanced asset replacement and maintenance strategies.

Under the “grid optimization” category, PGE noted that energy storage is in the planning stage. House Bill 2193 mandates that PGE procure at least 5 MWh of new energy storage by Jan. 1, 2020, the company said, adding that it has created an inter-departmental team responsible for developing a plan for meting the mandate. To date, PGE said, the team has developed a project vision, which is to create a diversified storage portfolio — in location and storage type — while integrating all resources through PGE system operations.

PGE said that it is evaluating options over the next two years, with the intent to begin procurement in 2018, and system integration around 2020.

The company also noted that the Salem Smart Power Project is complete, with ongoing testing. That demonstration project was co-funded by the U.S.

Department of Energy under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act as part of the Pacific Northwest Smart Grid Demonstration. Key project features and demonstrations included an advanced lithium ion batter system — 1.25 MWh, 5 MW — providing uninterrupted power for testing microgrid concepts, real and reactive power regulation for voltage regulation and stability, as well as power cost hedging and ancillary services, PGE added.

In 2016 and 2017, PGE and the Pacific Northwest National Lab, with funding received from DOE, will model the financial benefits of providing multiple services and develop and optimal control strategy for having the battery provide multiple use cases simultaneously.

Under the “customer engagement” category, PGE noted that flex price/critical peak pricing (CPP) is complete. PGE said that it launched a two-year CPP pilot project in November 2011, and offered the pilot to 1,000 customers through Schedule 12. The program used a dynamic pricing structure, based on time-of-use rates, to encourage peak-load reduction on a general basis, but especially during times of unusually high demand, PGE said.

Since customer satisfaction with the program was low — 65 percent — compared to other pricing programs — 75 percent to 85 percent — the company said that it decided to evaluate various other pricing models in the Flex pilot instead of scaling the CPP pilot.

Among other things, PGE discussed future smart grid investments, and listed electric vehicle charging programs under opportunities for the next five to 10 years.

With more than 850 public electric vehicle charging stations in Oregon, PlugShare.com has reported that Oregon has the highest number of public stations per capita in the United States, PGE said, adding that it expects the number of such vehicles in Oregon to grow from about 6,300 today to more than 100,000 by 2035. PGE also said that it is tracking the electric vehicle market and evaluating technologies that could serve as demand- or supply-side resources for the company’s’ resource portfolio.

Additionally, PGE said that it is working on a microgrid market assessment to determine service territory-wide potential for future microgrid projects.

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Corina Rivera-Linares, chief analyst for TransmissionHub, has covered the U.S. power industry for the past 10 years. Before joining TransmissionHub, Corina covered renewable energy and environmental issues, as well as transmission, generation, regulation, legislation and ISO/RTO matters at SNL Financial. She has also covered such topics as health, politics and education for weekly newspapers and national magazines. She can be reached at corinar@pennwell.com .

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