Smart Grid
What is Smart Grid?
Smart Grid is a broad term used to describe upgrades that enhance the capabilities of the electric grid.  These technology upgrades are necessary to bring new technology—and benefits like automatic outage notification and system monitoring—to an electric grid that was constructed more than fifty years ago and still depends largely on manual processes.  Across the U.S. and around the world, Smart Grid projects may include any combination of smart meters, distribution system automation, demand response, renewable generation sources and other features.  Learn more about smart grid technology, components and benefits.

MLGW’s Smart Grid initiative involves a combination of equipment, communications and processes to enhance internal operations and customer service, while creating greater customer awareness of when their homes use electricity, natural gas and water.

MLGW’s Smart Grid projects include:

Smart Grid Demonstration, a pilot project that ran from 2010-2012.  Volunteers from more than 1,000 households across Shelby County received electric smart meters with built-in cellular modems to replace their existing analog (dial-faced) meter.  Smart meters securely transmitted electricity use data to MLGW each night.  Volunteers could view their smart meter data online through MLGW’s My Account service and could adopt a Time-of-Use electric rate.  Half of households also tested In Home Displays.  Overall, the average participant utilized the information and took energy conservation steps to use 2.3% less electricity during the pilot, saving $42.12.  Time-of-Use participants had the largest impact, using 5.6% less electricity and saving an average $82.68.  Read six quick facts or read the Smart Grid Demo final report

60,000-meter Project, 2013-2014.  The current phase of MLGW’s initiative includes the installation of a combined 60,000 residential electric, natural gas and water smart meters.  This phase is nearly complete, with just a few meters left to install.  Rather than having volunteers scattered across Shelby County, MLGW focused on specific geographic areas to minimize project costs and maximize benefits.  Meters were installed inside Memphis (approximately 80%) and in surrounding municipalities (approximately 20%).  Areas were selected based on existing telecommunications infrastructure, MLGW meter reading routes and other factors. 

A Request for Proposals was issued during first quarter 2013 and a vendor (Elster Solutions) was selected. MLGW’s Board of Commissioners and the Memphis City Council approved the contract award in August 2013, as well as a voluntary residential Time-of-Use rate to replace the pilot rate. 

Downtown/Medical Center Network Communications Project, a multi-year effort that received $5 million in federal funding as part of a cost-sharing grant to add fiber optic communications.  The portion of MLGW's electric system being modernized serves Downtown Memphis, government buildings and the region's major medical centers, including The MED and St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. This growing area is served by a very complex networked distribution system but contains some of the oldest facilities in our system. Improvements being made will provide us, for the first time, with information on the operating status of the equipment and allow us to perform preventive maintenance to keep it working. Other benefits include the ability to monitor and control capabilities for transformers and key circuits, allowing us to reduce outage times, reduce employee resources needed to address problems, and give us additional insight to potential electric grid problems before outages occur.

Automated Switches. MLGW installed 40 automated switches to help reduce the number of customers affected by a particular outage, by automatically redirecting power from another circuit.  MLGW targeted circuits that had the longest average restoration times to receive this upgrade.
Smart Grid Questions
MLGW will continue to update its project website with news and information about the Smart Grid initiatives. You can also visit MLGW's online Smart Grid FAQ and Myths & Realities for more information.