Southern California Edison was one of six U.S. grid “innovators” and the sole utility recognized for its technology leadership at the first GridWeek conference in Washington, D.C. Sponsored primarily by the Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Electricity Delivery & Energy Reliability, the conference dealt with the technology and policy challenges of modernizing the U.S. power grid.

SCE received the event’s Smart Grid Implementation & Deployment Leadership award for its advanced metering initiative. In the award presentation, organizers recognized SCE’s “use of largely open-standards(a) architecture providing the flexibility to adapt to future uses” and the new meter’s potential for “improving customer service, reducing peak demand and energy use, saving customers money, and offering them new rate and service options.”

Edison’s smart meters, which are really small, powerful computers and communication systems, will enable broader use of real-time pricing of electricity. This will create powerful incentives for customers to save money by shifting their usage to off-peak hours, when the cost of producing electricity is lower.

SCE Chairman John Bryson highlighted the potential of such smart grid technology to improve system reliability and help reduce emissions of greenhouse gases and other pollutants.

“We anticipate that our advanced metering initiative could result in customers reducing peak demand on our system by as much as 1000 MW or the output of an entire power plant,” said Bryson. “Such changes hold great promise for addressing energy supply and environmental challenges faced by our industry.”

SCE plans to begin field-testing its new metering system this summer with full deployment of five million meters between 2009 and 2012 across the 15 California counties the utility serves.

“With these smart meters, we will be able to give our customers unprecedented new tools to manage their energy use,” said Lynda Ziegler, SCE senior vice president of customer service. “Someday, for example, customers will use their home computers and portable communications devices to design energy-efficient usage patterns to meet their personal needs.”

SCE unveiled at the DOE event the name selected for the utility’s advanced meter program – Edison SmartConnect.

Edison SmartConnect reflects two of our central goals for the first-of-a-kind technology we and the metering industry have developed,” said Paul De Martini, SCE’s director of advanced metering infrastructure. “The new devices will empower consumers and businesses with the resources to make the smartest energy choices ever, and connect the next generation of communicating appliances, thermostats, and plug-in vehicles so these new customer options will be almost effortless.”

Most advanced meter systems being installed by the electricity industry can measure customer usage hourly, rather than monthly, and use a two-way communications network to convey usage data, providing customers with more information and reducing meter reading costs. SCE was the first U.S. utility to require that suppliers go beyond these basic features and other customer benefits as standard equipment, including the following:

  • Integrated remote service-activation technology in all residential meters allowing customers who are moving to order their new service instantly instead of scheduling a utility employee to do so at a home or business.
  • Open standards-based, home-area network that assures compatibility with the next generation of smart thermostats and appliances that will be capable of automatically responding to customer energy usage and cost preferences.
  • Assurance of long-term remote software upgrade compatibility as technology advances are made that benefit customers and reduce utility costs.

(a) Electronic devices designed with open-standards architecture have publicly available specifications that provide a common method of achieving a particular computing goal. They enable interoperability that supports collaborative innovation. The opposite approach is an exclusive design accessible only by one manufacturer.