Meter data for voltage conservation, efficiencies

Dominion Virginia Power on the basics

Phil Carson | Sep 23, 2012


Today I'd just like to provide a glimpse into a Utility Analytics Week session from last week dubbed "Leveraging Data from the Meter and Beyond." It provided some of the nuts and bolts around meter data and its varied uses, while referencing the business case. 

The first speaker up, and our focus today, was Brandon Stites, director of energy conservation at Dominion Virginia Power, who had granted us an interview prior to the analytics conference.

(You can reference that column here, "Dominion Virginia Power: Data and DSM.")

"I'm more the beneficiary of analytics than the practitioner," said Stites, who mentioned his reliance on the utility's IT department for the data and analytics. 

Stites offered a few use cases for data analytics at Dominion Virginia Power, headquartered in Richmond, Virginia. This regulated, investor-owned utility serves about 2.5 million electric customers in 15 states. 

Four premises are important to success, according to Stites: 

  • Accuracy
  • Timeliness
  • Completeness
  • Resiliency


Stites extrapolated on those four success factors. 

"If we don't have confidence in the accuracy of the data we probably shouldn't be deploying the technology," Stites said.  

"Different applications have different latency requirements and, once you've established what those latency requirements are, it's really important that you hit them," he said. "You have to have the confidence that you'll have the data when you need it." 

"A lot of our data come from disparate sources, sometimes from the remotest parts of our grid," Stites continued. "It's important that it's complete, that there are no gaps in the data." 

"The aspect of resiliency that we talk about at Dominion is `being at our best when it matters most,'" he said. "That means our employees being at their best, our systems being at their best and our infrastructure and our grid being at their best. When it comes to data, it's got to be there on the best days as well as the days when we're battling a hurricane and making restoration efforts." 

Stites said that Dominion is taking a "measured approach" to advanced metering infrastructure (AMI), which is in a demonstration phase right now. Working since 2009, in four years the utility has grown metered accounts to more than 110,000 meters out of 2.5 million. 

The utility set out to achieve four core capabilities from its AMI work, of which Stites focused on two. The first is the utility's outage notification and restoration capability. The other is voltage conservation, which Stites said formed the bulk of the business case for AMI. 

On the front end, meter data provides outage information and, on the back end, restoration information. 

"So, what's in it for the customer?" Stites asked, rhetorically. "Really, faster problem identification and, hopefully, faster restoration. Certainly, the reduced need for customer call-backs to ask if their power is back on is something they expect in this day and age that their utility will know that. And, frankly, we don't, except in those cases where we've begun deploying AMI."

The utility's outage management system (OMS) is really "the engine" for data analytics around outages, drawing on multiple data streams for analysis at the front end and verification at the back end, once power is restored, Stites said. The OMS also kicks out reliability metrics in the form of SAIDI "and her sisters." (SAIDI, of course = System Average Interruption Duration Index.) 

On voltage conservation, Stites said "we're using premise-level voltage readings (enabled by AMI) to optimize voltage delivery to the customer." 

This improves power quality and, in most cases, it means reduced voltage to customers and, thus, a reduction in their usage and bill while also reducing energy use by the system as a whole. 

In a digression, Stites mentioned his responsibilities for Dominion Virginia energy efficiency programs. 

Prior to rolling out a program, Dominion Virginia uses analytics for market segmentation, to gauge program interest as well as the cost effectiveness and energy savings of the program, all of which must pass muster with regulators before approval is sought. Once approved, a program's implementation is also tracked using analytics to verify the energy savings, budgets and progress toward penetration targets.  

"At the back end, a critical part of any program of any DSM (demand side management) program is the EM&V," Stites said. "Evaluation, measurement and Verification. That's something we need to report to our regulators to stay in business, to continue those DSM programs." 

And EM&V is based on data and its analysis, Stites emphasized. 

Of course, the devil is in the details, but here's one of North America's largest utilities moving methodically to implement AMI and using the resulting data streams to improve outage management and energy efficiency of the grid. That sounds like a good place to start. 

Phil Carson
Intelligent Utility Daily




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Volt/VAR Optimization


Timely article! I think that, next to automated outage management, Volt/VAR optimization is the lowest hanging fruit in the Smart Grid. Not all smart meters provide Volt/VAR data, but that shouldn't be a big problem because utilities can deploy bellwether monitors at appropriate locations.

The benefits can be significant and include peak demand reduction, energy conservation, loss reduction, power quality improvement, increased equipment life for utilities and consumers.

Eventually this data will be necessary for real-time distribution system analysis and management.

Steve Collier (SmartGridMan)