The smart grid is more than just smart meters and, if done correctly, can streamline utility operations, reduce outages and reduce electricity bills, New York State Public Service Commission (PSC) Chairman Garry Brown said Oct. 24.
“It will foster, and it is fostering, a new era of smart appliances that are going to be able to interact with the electricity system and smart homes that will allow you to control your energy destiny much more than today,” he added. “We’re on the verge of a transformation that’s going to integrate some of the network capabilities of the information technology sector, which has changed our lives so incredibly over the last 15 to 20 years, with the traditional electricity delivery capabilities of…[the] transmission grid or a smart grid.”
Brown was among those gathered in New York to, according to the New York ISO (NYISO), highlight the benefits of a statewide $75m smart grid initiative that was supported by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) through an investment grant of more than $37m.
DOE provided smart grid grants to independent system operators, transmission companies and other utilities across the country to install more than 800 networked phasor measurement units (PMUs) to help the country avoid future disturbances like the 2003 Northeast regional blackout.
The smart grid technology being implemented as part of the grant will modernize the electric grid by adding PMUs for measuring and reporting system conditions and providing enhanced voltage stability through the installation of capacitor banks in key areas, NYISO added.
The capacitor banks being installed at 234 locations around the state aim to improve the bulk transmission system’s efficiency by reducing the amount of electricity that is lost when carried over long distances, thus reducing electricity costs in New York by about $7.6m per year.
Meanwhile, NYISO added, the data provided by the 39 PMUs installed as part of a statewide network will improve grid operators’ ability to detect irregularities, predict problems and take corrective action to maintain electric service reliability to customers.
The state has “a very old, aging infrastructure” and major investment – about $13bn over the next five years – is needed just to maintain what is there now, Brown said during the media conference call.
NYISO President and CEO Stephen Whitley said, “The reliability of the electric grid and the dependability of the quality of power it provides is essential to our daily lives and vital to our future prosperity – that’s why we’re here together today.”
He noted that the NYISO and the state transmission owners are “making sound investment in the power system that will sustain and enhance the reliability of the bulk electric system.”
Whitley also said that the reliability of the New York system gives the state a competitive advantage in the worldwide competition for jobs. “Business and industry depend on the secure and sustained supply of power,” he said. “Working together, we are deploying smart grid systems that will help New York keep and enhance that competitive advantage.”
Among the utility executives present was Kevin Burke, chairman, president and CEO of Con Edison, which hosted the event.
Like Whitley, he mentioned employment, noting that a lot of the funding was provided to help improve employment in the area. “[I]n the last 2.5 years, we’ve averaged about 210 people working on all of these projects throughout the Con Edison system and I think that’s a significant issue that deserves mention when we’re looking at some of the benefits of the project,” he said.
According to Con Edison, the company has installed 14 PMUs on its bulk power system this year.
Other benefits, according to Central Hudson Gas & Electric President James Laurito, “include greater situational awareness of what’s happening on our system, with fewer voltage fluctuations, and those both result in improved reliability for our customers.”
He added, “In addition, reduced system losses will occur, and improved grid efficiency, and those will result in lower cost for our customers, which is what it’s all about.”
According to the company, Central Hudson, whose holding company is CH Energy Group (NYSE:CHG), is investing $3.2m for the installation of smart grid equipment on its interconnected transmission system, 50% of which will be reimbursed under the investment grant.
New York Power Authority COO Edward Welz noted that smart grid technology will significantly maximize the operating efficiency of existing transmission facilities. “Its value in providing instantaneous real time information with respect to the precise condition and performance of power lines is immeasurable,” he said.
According to NYPA, it is operating nine PMUs that were installed during the 1990s and early 2000s, and currently has three parallel efforts for new PMU installations.
Among other speakers, Ken Daly, National Grid USA‘s president in New York, said the company has invested in total $1.5bn over the last five years in upstate New York. “[I]t’s really shown a significant improvement in our reliability and our performance, particularly given the rash of storms we’ve seen in the last 12, 15 months,” he said.
Daly noted that customers want three things: affordable energy, reliable energy and sustainable energy. “[W]hen you look at today’s announcement, particularly the capacitor investment, we’ve installed…those in our upstate business in the eastern region, and effectively, what it’s doing is reducing the line losses and ultimately allowing us to dispatch less generation,” he said.
National Grid is a subsidiary of National Grid plc.