Come together


Published In: Intelligent Utility Magazine July/August 2009


IN ORDER FOR A SMARTER GRID TO WORK, UTILITIES MUST BE OPEN TO working more closely with one another. With the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) earmarking $4.5 billion in funding for the smart grid, it appears as if the incentive to make this happen has just increased: a large portion of the grants will give priority to projects conducted at the local and regional levels.

Bonneville Power Administration (BPA), for example, has already held two workshops inciting requests for information from both utilities and vendors in the interest of exploring potential working relationships. ''BPA doesn't really know what role our agency will have in the smart grid project, but what we do know is that it's important for us to get the region united on even something as simple as: what do we mean by 'smart grid?''' explained Katie Pruder, who works in public affairs for BPA. ''We need to be proactive in an effort to bring a regional project to the Pacific Northwest.''

Collaboration, however, isn't a new concept. In 2006 and 2007, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) conducted the GridWise Demonstration Project with the goal of testing how active a role consumers can—and are willing—to play in managing the grid. Two major studies were conducted:

  • Grid Friendly Appliance Project: involved the fitting of controllers to household appliances, thus reducing energy consumption at peak times
  • Olympic Peninsula Project: demonstrated that homeowners will self adjust their individual usage based on pricing alerts sent to them in real-time

Funded by the Department of Energy, GridWise brought together BPA, Clallam County PUD, the City of Port Angeles, Wash., IBM, PacifiCorp, Portland General Electric and Whirlpool Corporation.

Carl Imhoff, manager of the electrical energy sector at PNNL, notes that the smart grid enables utilities to focus more on demand. ''We can use things like smart controller chips on hot water heaters and dryers, like we did with GridWise, to be a part of how we manage and keep the grid balanced,'' he said. ''That presents a new opportunity. If three or four local utilities all had some demand response and smart appliance activities, organization above them that has manage the wholesale market needs to work with those multiple entities to aggregate that new demand asset in a way that they can extract value from it at the wholesale level.'' While utilities have always had to work together to some extent, this offers utilities must be o additional collaborative opportunities. ''We will be adding both demand and supply in terms of how we manage the system.''

Imhoff believes that ARRA funding will definitely speed up the process. ''It will accelerate the rate at which we can step up and embrace some of these new ideas,'' he said. ''It's going to be an important stimulus to help get the vendor community, the utilities, the regulators and the consumers engaged, and to pick up the pace in this transformation, and it will have some important, lasting benefits.

''Doing these demonstrations right will help the country be more effective at tackling the strategic agenda related to transforming our energy system and dealing with carbon,'' he said. ''The underlying smart grid infrastructure will of controllers help us to do today's job better, but energy consumption it will also be a strategic asset as we push efficiency will self- harder than we've ever pricing alerts sent done before, and as we move through some sort of carbon policy, the same infrastructure will be central to doing the measurement and verification to tackle our emerging challenges related to carbon and efficiency.''

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