AEP Ohio, a unit of American Electric Power, filed last Friday with the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio a plan to broaden the company's successful gridSMART program to communities throughout its Ohio service territory.
Phase 2 of the gridSMART plan is built on technologies and solutions that were implemented during the company's gridSMART Demonstration Project, which was launched in 2009 in northeast central Ohio. The four-year pioneer campaign allowed AEP Ohio to test a host of smart grid devices, programs and services to determine what aspects of the smart grid worked best for both customers and AEP Ohio.
The plan includes the installation of advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) to approximately 900,000 customers; distribution automation circuit reconfiguration (DACR) to improve the reliability of 250 distribution circuits; and volt var optimization (VVO) to better control the voltage of 80 distribution circuits. Following regulatory review and approval, AEP Ohio anticipates the project will take four years to complete.
"Already, our customers in the gridSMART Demonstration Project have experienced the benefits of having these technologies installed," said Pablo Vegas, AEP Ohio president and chief operating officer. "These proven technologies provide customers with more accurate information to view their energy consumption, improved billing accuracy and enhanced reliability. AEP Ohio has learned from recent significant weather events like the 2012 Derecho and Super Storm Sandy that modernization of the distribution grid can help pinpoint damage more accurately, and ultimately support faster restoration times during future weather events."
AEP Ohio is proposing to install AMI, otherwise known as smart meters, in more than 31 communities throughout its service territory. Using two-way communication capabilities, the technology provides near real-time meter readings and the secure transfer of customers' usage information to AEP Ohio for billing and operational purposes. The technology improves billing accuracy and eliminates the need for a meter reader to enter onto a customer's property. AMI gives customers the tools and information needed to use electricity more efficiently. In addition, AEP Ohio will have the ability to quickly check if service is available to a customer and verify that service has been restored following an interruption. AEP Ohio is integrating AMI with service restoration systems to be better equipped to detect power outage locations so repairs can be completed more quickly.
"AMI provides environmental benefits as well," added Vegas. "Because we no longer have to send meter readers out to a customer's home or business, we estimate we will be able to eliminate 187,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide by reducing 440,000 miles driven annually."
The company proposes to install AMI in the following cities: Athens, Bucyrus, Cambridge, Canton, Chillicothe, Circleville, Columbus and its suburbs, Coshocton, East Liverpool, Findlay, Fostoria, Fremont, Gallipolis, Hillsboro, Ironton, Kenton, Lancaster, Lima, Marietta, Nelsonville, Newark, New Philadelphia, Portsmouth, Southpoint/Chesapeake, Steubenville, Tiffin, Upper Sandusky, Van Wert, Waverly, Wooster and Zanesville.
Part of the plan presented to the PUCO includes the installation of DACR devices on 250 distribution circuits serving more than 330,000 customers. These devices are designed to improve reliability by "self-healing" the distribution system through remote monitoring, coordination and operation. For customers, this means fewer outages and quicker restoration times. Results from the current demonstration project indicate the Phase 2 implementation will provide up to a 30 percent reduction in customer minutes of interruption.
The plan also includes the installation of VVO on 80 distribution circuits serving nearly 119,000 customers. VVO achieves energy efficiency by better controlling and monitoring the voltage levels on a distribution circuit, which ultimately reduces the energy consumption by customers on that circuit. Previous installations have shown a two to three percent energy and demand reduction benefit to the customer without any behavioral changes required from them.
AEP Ohio is proposing to recover the costs of this project through a rider to customers' bills. The company anticipates the costs for the average residential customer using 1,000 kWh per month to be approximately $2 per month for the first 5 years.