published Tuesday, October 25th, 2011

EPB's Chattanooga smart grid gains federal accolades

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    Staff Photo by Dan Henry/Chattanooga Times Free Press John Layne, left, a construction foreman with EPB, and lineman Brian Pankey prepare a new "Smart Switch" for installation off Brainerd Road. The new switches will work with the new smart grid technology allowing EPB technicians to cut off or change the flow of electricity to a specific area remotely.

Federal officials touted EPB's Smart Grid on Monday, calling for wider adoption of the next-generation electric infrastructure to compete with other early adopters like China and Ireland.

Patt Hoffman, assistant secretary at the U.S. Dept. of Energy, said "we have to start now" if the goal is to finish a significant upgrade of the country's aging grid in time to be competitive.

Through stimulus dollars and other grants, the feds have already installed about 7.8 million smart meters nationwide, 6,000 in-home displays, and enrolled about 200,000 ratepayers in time-of-day pricing, she said -- just over 50 percent of the current goal. EPB is building a smart grid system with interactive smart meters to all of its 160,000 customers in the Chattanooga area.

Previous efforts to save energy "now sort of seems like stone age compared to the technology we're seeing today with this smart grid system," Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield said.

But though the investments in smarter technology will help customers and power producers like TVA save money, the Recovery Act effort may ultimately result in fewer utility jobs as new technology renders dedicated meter readers obsolete.

David Wade, EPB's chief operating officer who has overseen the installation of more than 750 smart switches and 81,000 smart meters, said the $111.7 million stimulus grant was a wise investment for the utility's customers.

EPB matched the federal monies for a total of about $220 million budgeted to construct Chattanooga's new power network, of which more than half has been spent.

"We have seen better reliability already," Wade said.

In recent tropical storms that lashed the area, more than 59,000 customers lost power, he said. But 200 of the utility's new automatic smart switches saved an additional 25,000 ratepayers from losing power over Labor Day, according to an EPB study.

Of those 25,000, 16,000 saw nothing, and 9,000 saw "a blip," he said.

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about Ellis Smith...

Ellis Smith joined the Chattanooga Times Free Press in January 2010 as a business reporter. His beat includes the flooring industry, Chattem, Unum, Krystal, the automobile market, real estate and technology. Ellis is from Marietta, Ga., and has a bachelor’s degree in mass communication at the University of West Georgia. He previously worked at UTV-13 News, Carrollton, Ga., as a producer; at the The West Georgian, Carrollton, Ga., as editor; and at the Times-Georgian, Carrollton, ...

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RobertWilliams said...

MUST-SEE 4-minute youtube video on Smart meters:

October 25, 2011 at 2:36 a.m.
holdout said...

Sorry Robert but I just don't see the issue. You are certainly not required by anyone to have electric service in your home. If the smart meter worries you that much simply disconnect your service. While you are at it toss your cell phone, stay off the internet, pay only cash for everything and never drive a car less that thirty years old. If you choose to take advantage of the conveniences of living in the modern world you must accept the price tag attached.

October 25, 2011 at 8:16 a.m.
my2cents said...

The Smart Meter is just a tool which will allow the EPB to permit Time of Day (TOD) Billing for residential customers. TVA charges the EPB more for electricity used during on peak hours. On peak hours are usually 6 AM to 9 AM and from 4 PM to 9 PM, M-F or before and after a normal work day. The bottom line is that a normal residential customer can expect their electric bill to rise. A homeowner could change their peak usage to off peak times. Maybe you could begin cooking dinner after 9 and take that hot shower at 4 AM. (It will take some time for the water heater to recover).

As a taxpayer you gave the EPB $111.7 million stimulus grant to install the smart meters and raise your future TOD electric bill.

It's all about the money. 25,000 ratepayers didn't loose power over Labor Day is just like the million jobs saved by the stimulus bill. Driving the manure spreader is better than standing behind it.

October 25, 2011 at 9:55 a.m.
Widemouth said...

Smart Meters - something to be afraid of?

October 25, 2011 at 9:24 p.m.
Widemouth said...

Smart Meters - something to be afraid of?

October 25, 2011 at 9:26 p.m.
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