• Smart Grid 101

  • New technologies are making your everyday items better, faster and cheaper. And how we deliver your electricity is also improving, thanks to innovative technologies.

    Your electricity delivery system is a network of wires, transformers, switches and meters set up as a grid to ensure electricity travels efficiently and seamlessly from power plants to our customers. A smart grid is “smart” because, much like a smart phone that has a computer in it, a smart grid uses computer-based remote control and automation.  Bringing two-way communication technology and computer processing to electricity grids provides a number of benefits to both utility companies and the customers we serve. 

    We are committed to smart grid technology, helping our customers save money and take control of their energy usage through the introduction of smart meters in homes and businesses throughout the region. These smart meters provide more accurate energy readings and allow customers to view their detailed energy usage and billing breakdown through the easy-to-use online tool, My Account. Make sure to check out our Smart Meter page to learn more about how to take advantage of this important technology.

     

    Upgrading The Grid

    The story goes that if Alexander Graham Bell were to visit the 21st century, he would not recognize most of our modern technology – computers, cell phones, cell towers – but he would be totally familiar with our century-old electricity grid. For over 100 years, utility companies have had to send workers out in the field to read meters, fix malfunctioning or broken meters, and take voltage measurements. Adding two-way communications and computer processing to the various components of the electricity grid from transformers to switches to devices in your home or business means that the network can be connected to a central operations facility. An example of a device in your home or business is the smart meter.

    Rising demand requires a smarter grid

    The grid is one of the most significant achievements of the 20th century. It powers our homes, our businesses, hospitals, schools, traffic lights and more. It is also the most reliable system in the world. Yet with more people needing more electricity to power their televisions, phones, computers, tablet computers and air conditioners, demand has skyrocketed and the current grid struggles to keep up. Delivering reliable energy to meet the rising demand is impeded by devices that are not automated, because they are slow to respond and unable to quickly provide the necessary information or restore power in the case of a blackout.

     

    How It Works

    A smart grid will enhance generation, transmission, distribution and consumption of electricity. It will help utility companies not only know exactly where an outage occurs, and re-route power around failed equipment to quickly restore your service, but it will also prevent service disruptions by detecting and dealing with potential issues before they cause problems.

    Customers will also gain greater control over their own power use. Armed with data about when electricity is most expensive and cheapest, you can make choices to change your habits and save money.

    The biggest cost savings in using a smart grid will likely be in improved efficiency of electricity delivery. Historically, utility companies supply extra voltage into the grid to cover potential dips somewhere on that grid. With a smart grid, utility companies can supply the minimum amount of voltage to address identified voltage drops on the grid, which will result in greater efficiency and cost savings.

     

    Benefits

    A smarter grid will enable an electric system that is reliable, resilient, responsive, more energy efficient and secure, offering many benefits to both utilities and our customers.

    • Instant access to information 
    • Rate control
    • Customer involvement
    • Enhanced reliability
    • Outage detection
    • Environmental benefits
    • Energy efficiency


    Instant Information

    Having access to information when you want it and when you need it is always a benefit. The smart grid provides you access to your energy information in real-time, which allows you to monitor your consumption and make smarter choices to achieve savings.

    Reduce and know your rates   

    A smart grid can also help decrease rates by reducing demand during peak times. You can voluntarily set consumption limits that we will follow during peak times to help reduce your rates. Real-time pricing allows you to see how much electricity you are using and to make changes in your electricity use to times of day when rates are cheaper.

    Customer participation   

    The smart grid enables two-way communication with customers. Integrating consumers into the electricity delivery process is not only a benefit to you, but also a benefit to us. With more engaged consumers and better information, we can move forward with expanding projects to deliver your energy faster and more cost-effectively.

    Improved reliability   

    While historically, we depended upon customers to alert us of problems and sending workers out to find problems on the grid, a smart grid can detect and analyze issues and quickly take actions to mitigate or correct them, often preventing any service disruptions.

    Outage detection   

    In the event of a power outage, smart grid technology instantly alerts us and pinpoints the location of the outage. This benefit is critical in helping us restore power to your home or business faster and more efficiently than ever before.

    Impact on the environment   

    Remotely reading meters and correcting issues on the grid reduces the number of our vehicles on the road. A smart grid also enables generation from varied and distant power sources, decreasing the need to build new or dirtier power generation sources and increasing the use of more efficient renewable energy resources.

    Energy efficiency   

    A smart grid will enable customers to become active participants in when and how they use energy, enabling you to modify your electricity use and become more energy efficient.  The smart grid will also expand power generation options, including renewable sources, such as solar and wind, and new and emerging storage and other technologies.

     

    Myths Associated with Smart Grid

    We hear and understand your concerns over smart technologies. Whether you are using a cell phone, your microwave or a hairdryer, there are always concerns about how technology is impacting your health and your privacy. However, some of your concerns may be based on myths generated through hearsay instead of scientific fact. In addition to the information below, we encourage you to do your research and have provided links to several recent studies. 

    Two of the most pervasive myths about the smart grid are:

    • The myth that through the smart grid, utility companies will know what their customers are using their energy for. This is not true. You can charge your phone or computer, use a kitchen appliance or watch TV, and we will only know how much power you are using, not what you are using it for. This is no different than what we do today.
    • The myth that smart meters will harm your health. This is also not true. Smart meters communicate wirelessly through radio frequency (RF) waves and the myth suggests that exposure to these waves may have an adverse impact on your health. Smart meters are not harmful to your health since they only produce intermittent and low levels of RF waves. Most of us already keep many RF wave-emitting devices with or near us all day. Smart meters only produce RF waves for a few minutes each day and emit fewer waves than many other devices, such as radios, cell phones, televisions and microwaves. The Federal Communication Commission (FCC) has set a standard that limits the RF waves produced by smart meters. All devices must also be tested before they are used and are FCC-approved.


    Future With Smart Grid

    The smart grid will continue to evolve over time. We are already utilizing many of the technologies and tools to make the grid more reliable, efficient, affordable, secure and green. A smart grid gives you tangible savings and greater control over how you use energy, what energy sources you use and when you use them. As more and more of our consumers are inspired to become part of the smart grid and have smart meters installed at their homes and businesses, we hope to transform how energy is consumed and managed for everyone. 

    See what we are doing to help you gain these benefits with smart grid technologies.