Pacific Gas and Electric Co. has provided an update to state regulators showing the utility's progress on its Smart Grid plan for modernizing the electric grid to improve safety and reliability while delivering a host of energy and cost savings to customers. The report also describes how new and future Smart Grid projects enable the grid to accommodate new technologies that benefit customers.
By integrating a wide range of advanced communications, computing, sensing and control technologies on its electric grid throughout Northern and Central California, PG&E is able to provide customers with more control of their energy bill while enabling the company to more quickly respond to outages and service requests.
"This report shows our clear focus on safety, reliability and affordability and on ensuring that Smart Grid projects deliver a wide range of benefits for our customers," said Geisha Williams, executive vice president of electric operations at PG&E. "We've achieved significant progress in the last year making the electric grid that powers our homes and businesses more intelligent and responsive."
Grid improvements include PG&E's outage detection program, which can check individual meters to determine whether or not power has been restored; "self-healing" circuits that significantly reduce the average length of an outage by re-routing power flows; and high-tech monitoring equipment on the transmission system that provides early warning of potential problems so grid operators can take corrective actions before widespread outages occur.
Since the beginning of 2012, such systems have avoided almost 3.8 million customer outage minutes. Last year, PG&E customers experienced the fewest minutes without electricity in company history.
As part of PG&E's plan to enable new customer energy management capabilities, the utility will introduce or expand flexible pricing programs to give customers the opportunity to save money by shifting their energy use to times of the day when energy prices are lower. PG&E's SmartRate™ program is already the largest residential critical peak pricing program in the United States, with more than 120,000 residential customers enrolled in the program. In 2012, the program saved more than 500 megawatt hours, more than double the energy savings in 2011.
In the coming years, PG&E will continue to roll out Smart Grid technologies that improve service and reliability, lower customer costs and incorporate more renewable energy onto the grid. Consistent with its focus on technologies that meet customer needs, PG&E is pursuing such promising technologies only after thorough testing and evaluation, much of which takes place at the company's Applied Technology Services lab in San Ramon.