by Joseph M. Rigby, Pepco Holdings Inc.
As an owner and operator of transmission and distribution systems across a diverse geographic region subject to federal and multiple state regulatory frameworks, Pepco Holdings Inc. (PHI) takes the security of the bulk electric system seriously. PHI is the parent company of three operating utilities. Pepco provides electric distribution service to Washington, D.C., as well as most of Montgomery County and Prince George’s County, Md. Delmarva Power & Light Co. (DPL) is the electric distribution company that serves northeastern Maryland and the Maryland Eastern Shore and a large portion of Delaware. It also provides natural gas distribution service in Delaware. PHI’s Atlantic City Electric (ACE) subsidiary is the electric utility that serves eight counties in southern New Jersey. In addition to its electric and gas distribution facilities, Pepco, DPL and ACE own high-voltage transmission assets that are operated as part of the PJM Interconnection, the regional transmission organization that serves the northeastern United States. PJM coordinates the movement of wholesale electricity and directs the operation of a transmission energy system across the mid-Atlantic and the District of Columbia.
PHI is transforming our electric system into a smart grid, which combined with smart meters, will create a sophisticated network of automated digital devices that will deliver real-time data to help customers manage their energy use more efficiently and help integrate distributed and renewable generation and electric vehicles.
At the heart of the smart grid is the deployment of some 1.3 million smart meters in the District of Columbia, Maryland and Delaware service areas with exchanges and activations to be complete by July.
This advanced infrastructure will have the capability of communicating outage and power quality information on a more immediate basis while obtaining near real-time customer usage and demand information, communicating with programmable controllable thermostats and facilitating remote disconnection of a customer’s electrical service. It will transform the way power is delivered, managed and used. Customers will be empowered with information about their energy use and expect instant interactions with their utilities.
We’ve gone through two storm seasons with our smart grid at least partially deployed in the PHI service territory, and we’ve seen smart meter benefits. During Hurricane Irene, smart meters in Delaware confirmed when power was restored, which eliminated truck rolls. We had the same experience this summer in Washington, D.C., during the derecho.
Smart grid-enabled improvements also create value for customers by speeding restoration and reducing the impact of system damage. For instance, smart grid communications devices on the distribution system in Maryland allow us to remotely lock and unlock circuits to isolate system damage, reroute power and cut the number of customers impacted by that damage by more than half in seconds.
At this stage, the most tangible value we’ve extracted from smart meters has been operational with a particular benefit in our most critical moments: in storm recovery.
We recognize the importance of supporting the communities we serve and the health and sustainability of the state. We want to provide customers with the best mix of advanced technologies, renewable energy, energy-saving technologies and conservation programs to meet their energy usage goals.
We also understand the importance of sustainability to the quality of life and the viability of business. Because of this, from Washington, D.C., to the Northeast, Midwest, Southeast and Southwest, we work hard every day to deliver safe, reliable, energy-saving products while minimizing and offsetting environmental impacts from our operations.
Our priority is to provide safe, reliable electricity to our customers. Smart meters help us do that.
Joe Rigby is chairman of the board, president and CEO of Pepco Holdings Inc., one of the largest energy delivery companies in the mid-Atlantic region.