Smart Grid: The Facts
You might hear people talking about it, but what is the Smart Grid all about?
What is a Smart Grid?
Electricity is delivered to you through the "grid" - a network of power lines, transformers and substations (more information on the grid). A smart grid uses digital technology to enable two-way communication between important electrical equipment (including your location’s electric meter) and would provide that information to you and DP&L.
What are the benefits of a Smart Grid?
- Provide information to customers on usage, so they can adjust their usage patterns to take advantage of lower rates that may be available at different times of the day and evening.
- Improve reliability by sensing and automatically re-routing the supply of power during small-scale or isolated power outages that are caused by events such as traffic accidents. In contrast, a Smart Grid may not be able to effectively restore power from widespread power outages based on the amount and type of damage to the grid caused by damaging weather like high winds, ice or destructive thunderstorms and tornadoes.
- Allow utilities to manage and protect the grid while plugging in new sources of energy, like solar power.
Could a Smart Grid help during large-scale and widespread power outage events?
In extensive damage from a severe storm, smart meters do not necessarily help to restore your power faster.
- Catastrophic weather usually damages the power transmission system: high voltage transmission lines and substations. Those problems must be repaired before power can be restored to larger power distribution lines in neighborhoods, and then to individual customers without power. While smart meters could communicate to DP&L that a customer is without power, options to reroute power to customers are very limited when outages are widespread.
- When damaging weather continues over a number of days after initial outages, working conditions and repairs can be hampered by continuous severe weather that causes additional and repeated outages. Travel to the repair locations can also be difficult, especially to remote areas where roads are not passable.
Is DP&L building a Smart Grid?
Starting in 2008, DP&L began working on a system-wide Smart Grid plan with the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio and other interested parties including state consumer advocacy groups, large energy users like manufacturers, retailers and hospitals.
We continued to work with those groups for one year after we were notified that we would not receive federal stimulus funding. Despite the best efforts of the parties, DP&L withdrew its plan for several reasons, including
- challenging economic conditions,
- the fact that DP&L was not awarded federal stimulus dollars and
- Smart Grid programs being implemented by other Ohio utilities that could be instructive to possible future DP&L Smart Grid investments.
Although we withdrew that plan, we are making ongoing improvements and upgrades of our systems and distribution technology. When old technologies are retired, new, digital options are incorporated into the system that provide the supporting foundation for the implementation of Smart Meters and a Smart Grid. Examples include recent investments we are making in proven core technologies we use every day, such as our microwave communications system and our two-way radio system. These technologies will help us today and are the building blocks for more technology in the future.
We will continue to monitor information on the successes and challenges of implementing these new technologies and the progress made on other utilities’ Smart Grid pilot projects throughout the country.