SmartGrid boosts energy efficiency

SmartGrid boosts energy efficiency

March 30th, 2009 by Kathy Gilbert in News

Charles Beamon, a retired Encyclopedia Brittanica salesman from East Brainerd, hardly notices the programmable thermostat that kept his power bills and indoor temperatures steady for more than a year.

He was among 32 customers who participated in the EPB's "Energy Sense" test, launched in December 2007, to guide development of the company's SmartGrid system.

"I'm very happy with the whole program," Mr. Beamon said.

A SmartGrid is a fiber optic network being installed across EPB's entire service area this year.

The SmartGrid constantly "talks," telling observers at EPB what's going on across the network.

But what does all this mean to EPB's more than 160,000 customers?

With a SmartGrid in place, said Danna Bailey Cannon, EPB's vice president for corporate communication, EPB immediately will locate power outages and send trucks out to fix them. Power theft can be more easily spotted, and power use in each home can be tallied as often as every 20 seconds.


EPB's 2008 "EnergySense" pilot program showed these results:

* Every customer who participated in the program saved money.

* Annual customer savings ranged as high as $135.

* Customers saved, on average, $50.

* The 32 homeowners saved a total of 101,000 kilowatts of electricity.

* 138,669 pounds of carbon dioxide were saved, the equivalent of taking 17 cars off the road for a year.

Source: EPB

This will allow the company to charge different rates for energy used at different times of day. Highest rates likely would be charged for hot afternoons and lowest rates for early morning hours, Ms. Cannon said.

EPB may be able to alert customers when an energy peak moment is about to hit, she said.

That would allow customers to adjust thermostats and reduce energy bills, Ms. Cannon said.

Contracts now are being negotiated with companies to supply "smart meters" that can report to homeowners their moment-by-moment energy use, she said.

The company also is reviewing programs from other cities. Some companies using SmartGrids now give customers feedback on their energy use habits. They might print a smiley face or frowny face icons on a bill or send a graph showing how their electricity use compares to their neighbors, officials said.

Pilot program participant Mrs. Hoyt Kilgore said she paid little attention to her new system.

"(The thermostat) holds the same temperature, so I don't worry about it," Mrs. Kilgore said.

Other EPB customers say they can't wait to tune into their new smart meters.

"We've been lobbying to get a smart meter," said Jeff Cannon, director of Greenspaces. "We even got the fiber put into our building to make it possible. We're begging them to charge us."

Smart meters in all homes would allow the city to reduce its peak power usage, Mr. Cannon said.