The Kansas City Power & Light SmartGrid Demonstration Project is unique in many ways, one of which is its setting in the Kansas City, Missouri, U.S., urban core. KCP&L is among several American Recovery and Reinvestment Act grantees participating in a focused urban revitalization effort centered in a 150-block, economically challenged area known as the “Green Impact Zone.”
Despite the name, this is far from a greenfield site. KCP&L will be upgrading and integrating aging infrastructure together with new technologies. In addition, not only does this new smarter grid need to integrate with the existing grid, it also needs to integrate with the communities and their residents.
At KCP&L, we like to describe our project as a true end-to-end smart grid demonstration. The geographic footprint is only 14,000 meters, 3,000 in the Green Impact Zone itself. Despite the geographical limitations, most technologies commonly considered part of the smart grid are included. Although we are piloting these new technologies, our key focus is to deliver all of it through a customer-centric lens by intentionally injecting large doses of customer engagement and always asking ourselves, “What's in it for the customer?”
Our project includes:
Smart Generation (volt/VAR management, rooftop solar, grid-scale battery storage, demand response, distributed energy resource management system)
Smart Substation (relay upgrades, IEC 61850 communication over fiber, distribution management system, substation local controller, temperature and DGA monitors, tap changer controls)
Smart Distribution (automated switching and self-healing, capacitor automation, communicating faulted circuit indicators)
Smart End-Use and Buildings (automated metering infrastructure [AMI], Web portal, in-home display, thermostats, time-of-use rates, electric vehicle charging, broadband home area network, demonstration house)
Supporting Back-Office Infrastructure and Systems.
One of the lessons we learned early on is that collaborating with local groups for outreach dramatically improves participation. KCP&L started with education, outreach and customer engagement. We set an objective to have each customer receive 10 smart grid-related messages before exchanging their meter. Effective engagement required building partnerships with community groups and leaders. Outreach is a key element, particularly in the Green Impact Zone. Outreach required us to go into the community where our customers live their lives. This included things like attending neighborhood association meetings, community events, religious gatherings and other non-typical utility settings.
One of our engagement goals is to enable customers to be smart energy consumers. Therefore, we must capture attention and leverage all opportunities to educate consumers and community leaders on how the grid works and how habits affect monthly bills. Most consumers can relate to the transformation in the communications and computing industries over the past 30 years. People did not know they wanted the Internet or a cell phone, but now most of us consider these necessities. This analogy is effective in communicating the anticipated transformation and helps people relate to the way smart grid will offer more consumer choices.
Although executing this project in Kansas City's urban core is a unique dynamic, participating in this urban revitalization effort is a good fit with KCP&L's commitment to the communities we serve. Many times, areas like the Green Impact Zone are among the last to receive new technology or infrastructure improvements.
Customers are using in-home displays and a new Web portal to better understand electric usage and pricing. KCP&L has implemented a bill prediction engine to help residents budget and manage their electric bill. Customers can set targets and use the tools daily to measure progress against their own plans. Educating and elevating awareness has proven to be a successful first step to engaging customers into more active roles. KCP&L has distributed more than 1,000 in-home displays to date. We are creating smarter customers!
Consistent with the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act objectives and community revitalization, KCP&L has intentionally hired resources from the urban core whenever possible. For example, urban core residents completed our AMI meter exchange, distributed smart grid welcome kits during the meter exchange, and are providing telephone and e-mail support tailored to our demonstration customers. This involved training and skill development that can lead to future employment and creates built-in neighborhood ambassadors.
An urban core demonstration certainly has its challenges. KCP&L is up to the challenge. Learn more about our project at www.kcplsmartgrid.com.
Bill Menge (email@example.com) is KCP&L's SmartGrid director, leading Kansas City Power & Light's true end-to-end SmartGrid Demonstration Project.