Selected tag(s): Smart Grid

Texas Boasts Most Modern Power Grid In The Country

In an effort to gauge where America’s power grid stands, Washington D.C.-based group GridWise Alliance evaluated grid modernization in 41 states and the District of Columbia.  Texas and California tied for first place—standing far above the next runner up.

So what makes Texas’ grid so special?

Texas restructured its electricity market in 1999, introducing competition into the retail electric market.  The new competitive retail market gave most Texans a choice of electricity providers from dozens of companies, so these energy providers compete to offer the most advanced services.  For example, Texans can opt for 100% renewable electricity from Green Mountain Energy.

Additionally, in an effort to update Texas’ electric grid, the Public Utility Commission, Texas’ governing body for electricity, passed a resolution prompting “wires companies”(the firms that deliver energy from power plants to homes and businesses) to invest in millions of smart meters.  Smart meters can help eliminate huge waste in the energy system, reduce peak energy demand (rush hour on the electrical wires) and spur the adoption of clean, low-carbon energy resources, such as wind and solar power, by managing energy demand and generation more efficiently.

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Posted in Climate, Grid Modernization, Texas| Also tagged , , , , | Read 1 Response

A Smart Approach To Smart Meters

John FinniganA new documentary about smart meters opens on September 5th called Take Back Your PowerThe film suggests that smart meters cause illness.  According to an August 12 USA Today story, the film’s director was inspired by a friend who became seriously ill after a smart meter was installed at his home.  Naturally, this type of personal experience might shape one’s view on smart meters, but correlation is not causation.

Electric utilities have installed over 38 million smart meters across the country and there “has never been a documented injury or health problem associated with such meters.”  According to the Federal Communication Commission (FCC), “no scientific evidence establishes a causal link between wireless device use and cancer or other illnesses.”

Smart meters send information to utilities by using radio frequencies (RFs) such as those currently used by televisions, radios, baby monitors, cell phones and wifi routers.  RF signals have permeated our atmosphere for as long as we’ve had televisions and radios.

We use these devices every day, and many of them create much higher levels of RF exposure than smart meters.  The exposure level depends on the strength of the RF signal emitted by the device, the duration of the RF signal and—importantly— the distance from the source.  Cell phones emit up to several thousand times more RF signals than smart meters.  Smart meters also transmit intermittently and briefly during the day, while we talk on cell phones for long periods.  Finally, smart meters are located outside the home, while cell phones are often used close to one’s head.

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Posted in Grid Modernization| Also tagged , , | Read 25 Responses

How Smarter, More Flexible Energy Can Help Communities Weather Future Storms

Last week, the Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force released a Rebuilding Strategy, which aims to rebuild communities affected by Hurricane Sandy in ways that are “better able to withstand future storms and other risks posed by climate change.”  From an energy perspective, the main goal of these recommendations is to make the electrical grid smarter and more flexible.  This effort would minimize power outages and fuel shortages in the event of similar emergency situations in the future.

The Task Force is led by President Obama and chaired by Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Shaun Donovan.  The recommendations put forth in the report were developed with Governor Cuomo, Governor Christie, and a number of federal agencies and officials from across New York and New Jersey, representing an unusual opportunity to make changes that will help communities weather future crises.

This key idea – smarter, flexible energy – is central to resilience, safety and quick recovery in a storm, as well as reducing the harmful pollution linked to climate change in the first place.  This has been a key theme of EDF’s efforts to help the Northeast region respond to Sandy.

When the power grid went down on most of New York City following Hurricane Sandy, a number of buildings were able to keep their lights on thanks to existing microgrids and on-site, renewable energy sources.  The Task Force report lays out a path forward for taking these isolated success stories to scale and making these clean technologies available to everyone.

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Posted in Climate, Grid Modernization, Investor Confidence Project, New York, On-bill repayment| Also tagged , , , | Read 1 Response

Technology for energy-smart homes is here. Why aren't more people using it?

This commentary originally appeared on EDF's Voices blog.

Source: Department of Energy Solar Decathlon/Flickr

These days, the future is often in the news. It’s not uncommon to come upon articles about cars that drive themselves, vacation trips to space, and automated smart houses a la the Jetsons.

I don’t know much about space tourism or self-driving cars, but I do know that smart homes and the associated technologies are already allowing for the possibility of environmental benefits and economic savings that are nothing short of futuristic.

Our utility grid is the largest machine in world. Unfortunately, however, this machine exacts human and environmental costs all the way down the line — from extraction to combustion. But we’re at the beginning of an energy revolution in home energy management systems that may make consumers key players in solving these problems.

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Posted in Grid Modernization, Utility Business Models| Also tagged , , | Read 1 Response

Texas Electric Co-op At Forefront Of Customer Engagement

This commentary originally appeared on EDF's Texas Clean Air Matters blog.

(Source: Bluebonnet Electric Co-op)

Everywhere you turn these days, you hear someone mention the emergence of big data and how our lives will be more and more reliant on numbers.  Well the world of electric cooperatives (co-ops) is no exception.  Originally emerging out of the establishment of the Rural Electrification Administration, co-ops enabled rural farmers and ranchers to create customer-owned electric utilities in areas that are not serviced by traditional utilities.

I recently visited the Bluebonnet Electric Cooperative (Bluebonnet), one of the Texas’ largest co-ops providing energy to 14 counties, spanning the outskirts of Austin to Houston and boasting an impressive 11,000 miles of electric lines, 83,000 electric meters and 63,000 members.  Who would have thought so much big data is coming out of rural Texas?

What makes this co-op particularly unique is its smart grid, which is attracting some serious attention.

Unlike other traditional utilities, Bluebonnet does not generate any of its own electricity.  Instead, it buys electricity from the Lower Colorado River Authority and CPS Energy, both pioneers for clean, renewable energy.  Because of this, Bluebonnet is able to concentrate its energy (pun intended) on using new technologies to provide reliable power and enhance customer satisfaction. Read More »

Posted in Demand Response, Grid Modernization, Texas, Utility Business Models| Also tagged , , | Comments are closed
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