The most tangible value of smart grid technology for utilities "at this early stage" is operational with particular benefit in storm recovery, Graham said.
The value proposition for customers is getting their service restored a little faster, said Graham. And speeding restoration reduces the impact of system damage to customers, he added.
QUOTABLE: Smart grid communication devices on the distribution system of Maryland have allowed us to remotely lock and unlock circuits to isolate an area of
system damage, reroute power and thus cut the number of customers impacted by that damage by more than half in a matter of seconds.
Thomas Graham, president, Pepco
"We've had a situation, for instance, in our Prince George's [County, Md] territory, where … a tree has hit a line. We had 1,100 customers out of service and within 59 seconds, we were able to reroute service. So now, instead of 1,100 customers, we had just 200."
Pepco saw savings
"We've gone through two storm seasons with smart grid at least partially deployed in the [Pepco] service territory and we've realized savings," Graham said. Hurricane Irene hit Pepco's Delaware service territory in 2011, he noted.
Smart meters allowed us to confirm when power had restored to a number of customers," letting the firm eliminate "about 600 truck rolls," Graham said. "Those are locations that we know we didn't have to go to because those customers were restored."
Then, this summer, the massive "derecho" storm -- a rare, fast-onset storm with hurricane-strength winds -- cut power to some 483,000 Pepco customers, Graham reported. "In that particular situation in Washington, DC, we were able to save about 796 visits to customers.
"And in our Maryland service territory, we pinged that system about 2,600 times. So again, that is the value from an outage-protection perspective,"
How is value measured?
The challenge for Pepco is to communicate to customers that they received value from the technology, Graham said. "They were only out for about a minute but they could have been out for several hours -- but they never know that," he said.
The IOU's business case for smart grid deployment is based on the costs of deployment being offset by utility savings over time, he added. "I'm very happy to say that our experience proves that."
"There are further ways that we're beginning to extract value from smart grid, but they are harder to count or financially assess. How do you assign a dollar value to the change in the relationship with a customer?" he said.
Pepco likely will not be able in the short-term associate new earnings or specific savings with its smart grid deployments, Graham said, adding "but smart grid does change how our customers view us and that could change our regulatory outcomes [and] success of our rate cases in the future," he added.
This story was originally published here: http://www.smartgridtoday.com/
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