Avista: Characterizing smart grid effort as functional strategy places focus on ‘benefits to the system as a whole’

Avista Corporation d/b/a Avista Utilities, in its Sept. 1 Smart Grid Technology Report filed with the Washington Utilities & Transportation Commission (UTC), said that the onward progression into the changing utility landscape, including the modernized grid and its linked technologies, will require continued participation and mutual support from engaged stakeholders to achieve the benefits and advancements that the future will provide.

Certain obligations remain invariable, including customer expectations being met, regulatory policy being respected, and the financial requirements of the utility being achieved, all while safe, reliable and affordable energy is prevalent, the company said.

While the perpetual advancement of products, capabilities and technologies will pose challenges, the prudent risks taken should serve to overcome the obstacles encountered, the company said.

Avista said that it continues to evaluate new technologies and service approaches to improve operational efficiency, system reliability, energy efficiency, generation capacity and customer education and participation.

“Characterizing the smart grid effort as a functional strategy rather than simply a set of technology upgrades places the focus on the benefits to the system as a whole, where improved reliability, enhanced system information, improved outage recovery, integrated microgrids, and coordinated distributed energy resources become viable outcomes,” the company said.

The company noted that its smart grid system incorporates intelligent controls, automation, technologies, and equipment to coordinate the active management of the electric grid.

Avista said that starting in 2004, it increased its emphasis on asset management with a focused analysis of total lifecycle costs, equipment reliability, maintenance expenses, and capital versus O&M spending. Those efforts led to the creation of a systemic feeder rebuild program with three primary objectives: the reduction of maintenance expenses, reduction of energy losses, and increasing system reliability, the company said.

Subsequent to the feeder rebuild program, Avista said that its engineers began to use a distribution reliability and energy efficiency program that could be considered as first defining the specific drivers for the opportunities, needs and benefit considerations of a smart grid system.

The company also noted that the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 provided the Office of Electricity and Energy Reliability within the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) with $4.5bn to support modernization of the electric power grid and to fund Title XIII of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. DOE was to allocate those funds as grants to utilities to begin building and deploying the requisite smart grid infrastructure, the company said.

As part of the DOE award process, Avista said that it was selected to receive a $20m matching grant for a Smart Grid Investment Grant project to upgrade portions of its electric distribution system with integrated smart grid equipment and associated technologies. Noting that it committed an additional $22m toward the project costs, Avista said that the project, internally identified as the Smart Circuits project, significantly enhanced 58 electric distribution feeders and 14 substations in the greater Spokane area. The upgraded distribution feeders were primarily located in high-density population areas of north and south Spokane, serving about 110,000 customers, the company said.

In conjunction with the DOE award process, Avista said that it participated in a Smart Grid Demonstration Project that created the first “smart community” in the Pacific Northwest, located in the City of Pullman, Wash., and the nearby area. The funds for that $38m project were a portion of a larger $178m DOE grant for the Pacific Northwest Smart Grid Demonstration project that was administered by the Battelle Memorial Institute, the company said, adding that its designated portion of the matching funds was about $13.1m.

Avista said that its contribution to the project helped to transform Pullman into a “smart city” by providing the advanced metering infrastructure (AMI), including 13,000 smart electric meters and 5,000 natural gas encoder receiver transmitters, placed at customers’ homes and businesses.

The Smart Grid Demonstration Project concluded in December 2014, at which time Battelle began analysis and reporting on data gathered from all participating utilities to determine the value derived from the coordinated smart grid projects, the company said. The “Pacific Northwest Smart Grid Demonstration Project Technology Performance Report” was published in June 2015, the company said.

Avista said that it also received $1.3m of a $5m grant to contribute to the development of a Smart Grid Workforce Training program in partnership with several utilities, colleges and universities in the region. The company noted that it continues to use the curriculum materials and concepts developed by that grant to train existing and new employees.

The company said that it is pursuing a larger AMI project that would encompass the remainder of its Washington service territory. The Washington AMI project will include about 253,000 electric and 155,000 natural gas meters, the company said, adding that the electric meters will collect consumption data in the range of five to 15-minute intervals, while natural gas meters will collect data in one hour intervals.

Avista said that its current estimate of the total capital cost of the Washington AMI project is $166.7m, and that the cash value of the total operating expense over the project lifecycle is $123.4m. The Washington AMI project is tentatively slated to begin deployment in 2017, be operational by 2020, and completed by 2022, the company said.
On energy storage, Avista noted that energy storage systems that were installed and commissioned in spring 2015 in Pullman provide combinational power factor correction and voltage regulation while lowering the distribution voltage to reduce losses and loads. The project was funded through a $3.2m Clean Energy Fund grant from the Washington State Department of Commerce, Avista said, adding that it provided an additional $3.7m for the project. The energy storage project was placed in service in April 2015, the company said, noting that use case testing and analysis continues to be performed by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and is expected to be completed in spring 2017.

Among other things, Avista said that in January, it proposed an electric vehicle supply equipment (EVSE) pilot program for Washington customers that was approved by the UTC in April. Under that program, the utility will own and maintain EV infrastructure on customer premises, gather data and customer survey information, and conduct controlled charging experiments for the life of the equipment. Installations began in July and will be completed by June 2018, Avista added.

The company said that it has targeted installations of EVSE in 120 homes and about 80 businesses and public locations throughout eastern Washington, for a total of 272 vehicle port connections.

About Corina Rivera-Linares 3286 Articles
Corina Rivera-Linares was TransmissionHub’s chief editor until August 2021, as well as part of the team that established TransmissionHub in 2011. Before joining TransmissionHub, Corina covered renewable energy and environmental issues, as well as transmission, generation, regulation, legislation and ISO/RTO matters at SNL Financial from 2005 to 2011. She has also covered such topics as health, politics, and education for weekly newspapers and national magazines.