Intelligent Utility Magazine March/April 2010
In This Issue
  • Top 11 knowledge centers for gaining smarts
    If we 're going to make grids and utilities smarter , we have to get the knowledge from somewhere on how to do that. Therefore, it is important to take a closer look at the places out there to soak up that knowledge. So to help you quench your thirst, last year we developed a list of the top 10 knowledge centers in the smart grid and the intelligent utility. To improve the list (and in the spirit...
  • Tracking Toronto Hydro's journey
    Sometimes the impetus for smart grid movement comes from unlikely sources. In Ontario, the biggest thrust came from the provincial government.For Toronto Hydro, the provincial government's focus on green energy, conservation and demand management, and green jobs came as welcome support to its own smart grid plans. In late January, I headed north to visit Toronto Hydro Corporation and to find out...
  • MCEC information technology VP has new goals
    KEITH STURKIE WAS NO STRANGER TO electric cooperatives when he joined Mid-Carolina Electric Cooperative (MCEC) in 2002. For about 20 years prior, he had dealt with coops from his position as principal at Southern Business Services, a designer and marketer of CIS and financial software systems.Yet, when he received an offer to join Mid-Carolina on a full-time basis, Sturkie was conflicted. His...
  • HECO AMI director taking careful, measured approach
    WHILE PAUL FETHERLAND HAS ONLY worked as AMI director at Hawaiian Electric Company (HECO) since 2007, he is no stranger to the industry, or to HECO.Fetherland joined HECO in 1992, and directed its customer technology applications division for 13 years before stepping outside the company for a year in the software development world, and then returning to HECO to head up its AMI work.''During the...
  • Seattle City Light strategic planning director welcomes challenge
    WHEN COREY KNUTSEN JOINED SEATTLE City Light (SCL) in March 2008, he was tasked to develop a plan for taking an aged infrastructure, mostly mid-'70s electromechanical, and bring it into the 21st century with features representing the best in today's smart grid technology. He welcomed the challenge, something for which he feels his 35-year career in electrical engineering, resource evaluation,...
  • Iowans take a load off
    BOB HAUG WON'T LIKELY BE SUITING UP for a role in ''The Nutcracker'' anytime soon. But in his quest to showcase strength and synchronicity among a string of small Iowa utilities, the journeyman leader is cognizant that he needs to be as nimble-minded and -footed as master choreographer George Balanchine.An artistic overlap of home energy management and the ballet? Who knew? Welcome to the...
  • A rising consumer wave
    THE CONSUMER HAS HAD THE SOFTEST voice so far in the pursuit of the smart grid, but the National Association of State Utility Consumer Advocates (NASUCA) is working to change that-and rightly so. After all, we will be the ones who pay for it, either through taxes to support the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA) funding, or through our rates. There is a lot of money at stake and NASUCA...
  • Environmental groups support smart grid efforts
    UTILITIES AND ENVIRONMENTAL GROUPS are coming together to help modernize the transmission system. It's an arduous job that requires conciliation and patience.Together, they seek to improve the grid's capabilities so as to allow it to carry more green electrons as well as provide customers with the information they need to make better energy choices. With Congress now considering national...
  • Avista proves ROI of responsiveness
    COMPANIES TAKE THE FIELD-of- dreams approach to Web-site design: ''If you build it, they will come.''At Avista Utilities, we redesigned our site based on what people want to do once they get there. Such responsiveness proved to be a profitable approach. New online functionality saves our company nearly $400,000 annually.At the same time, customer satisfaction has risen, and our site was ranked...
  • Austin Energy provides ways to monitor usage
    UPDATING AN ENTERPRISE-SCALE CUSTOMER INFORMATION system (CIS) to improve customer communications and empower customers to make well-informed choices is no small undertaking if you're one of the nation's largest community-owned electric utilities.However, Austin Energy has been collaborating with several other Austin city departments to do just that. The end result will be an enhanced account and...
  • Utilities are switching gears in order to better communicate with customers
    EFFECTIVELY COMMUNICATING ABOUT SMART METER DEPLOYMENTS and smart grid infrastructure is critically import right now. As smart grid deployments accelerate across the nation, customers are becoming concerned and skeptical about these projects and how it will impact them. This resistance is creating a growing backlash about issues from smart grid technologies to data privacy, the high cost of...
  • We have been tracking smart grid and smart meter deployment communications for the past two years, and have been impressed with the mid-course communications adjustments that many utilities have made. Those with more mature smart meter systems are now being forced to carefully craft their messages and language to better managing customer expectations for both short- and long-term benefits. Here...
  • Transmission facility certificate standards reflect changes to system
    IN THE PAST, STATE LAW STANDARDS FOR OBTAINING certificates of public convenience and necessity to site transmission facilities focused on whether such new facilities were necessary for supplying power to customers in one state. By focusing the certificate standards on the energy needs of the consumers in only one state, state lawmakers failed to recognize that siting and constructing new...
  • American Clean Energy Leadership Act draws flak over language
    THINK OF THE AMERICAN CLEAN ENERGY LEADERSHIP ACT of 2009 (S. 1462) as a fence. Then think of the words 'measurable benefits' as the barbed wire strung at the top of that fence.This is an argument over language, with groups lining up at the fence to debate the barbed wire. Electric utilities, transmission companies, cooperatives, environmental groups, industrial and commercial customers and more...
  • Anticipated problems haven't yet emerged
    CONVENTIONAL WISDOM AROUND THE SMART GRID AND advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) is that utilities are going to be inundated in data. Some observers have posited that all these data might swamp utilities and represent a major problem for the near-term future. Somewhat surprisingly, however, so far that does not seem to be a major problem.''We've got about 20 to 30 percent of our smart meters...
  • DR an essential ingredient
    TO THE UNDISCERNING PALATE , CHEESE IS EITHER WHITE or yellow, and beer comes in two colors-light and dark. But that simplistic approach to eating and drinking is antithetical to the professionals at Cabot Creamery Cooperative and Harpoon Brewery. When you've toiled so diligently to perfect just the right flavor and broaden brand loyalty, you're understandably reluctant to compromise on quality....
  • E.ON U.S. expands its GIs usage
    OVER THE PAST 20 YEARS, GEOGRAPHIC INFORMATION systems (GIs) and global positioning systems (GPS) have merged into geospatial technologies that offer powerful tools to cope with an increasingly complex grid. Every day, more sophisticated mapping programs are being loaded into ruggedized laptops and hitting the streets, helping field personnel work smarter, faster and safer. Utilities are using...
  • A thorny debate still to be had?
    THE JUXTAPOSITION WAS HARD TO MISS: A FRONT- PAGE article in The New York Times on a subject typically treated in hushed tones in windowless rooms.''Survey finds growing fear of cyberattacks'' (Jan. 28, 2010, NYT) Of course, surveys are malleable tools and fears can be based on fact or perception. But the salient details of this survey drew my attention and, likely, others', as it was conducted...
  • ZigBee Alliance chair Bob Heile explains
    A LOT OF WHAT ZIGBEE ALLIANCE CHAIRMAN BOB HEILE has to say sails over my head, only partially retrievable with a magic mental net. At one point in our conversation last week, my notes began resembling hieroglyphics.That's OK, he's trained as a physicist and has decades of experience in wireless data communications and I'm a biologist-turned-journalist. (Talk about the ''main disconnect''!)...
  • Iowa cooperative replaces man with machine in the field
    TECHNOLOGY CONTINUES TO TAKE A STRONGER FOOTHOLD within the utility industry, especially in the meter interrogation area, where the long hours of labor once required to read and maintain meters, are being replaced by machine-to-machine (M2M) devices that take seconds to perform the same work.Utilities of all sizes and shapes are embracing various M2M technologies, from large gas and electric...
  • FROM FLORIDA TO WASHINGTON STATE, IT'S BEEN ONE ICY winter, wreaking havoc with electric transmission and distribution lines across the country. In Shelby County, Tennessee, January went out like a lion, dumping ice, sleet and snow, downing power lines and poles, limbs and trees, and causing approximately 30,000 Memphis Light, Gas & Water (MLGW) customers to lose power. Brian Cook took this...