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 operations 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 and facilities use electricity, natural gas and water.
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MLGW’s Smart Grid initiatives include:
Phase 2 (full deployment), 2016-2020. MLGW completed its Smart Meter project in 2020, officially ending the 5-year initiative to upgrade one million analog and digital meters to smart versions that use a radio mesh network to communicate with MLGW. In the end, a combined 937,574 smart electric, gas and water meters were installed across Shelby County, along with the county-wide telecommunications network and programming to interface the Smart Meter System with MLGW’s other operating systems. The $240 million project, which was the largest single capital project in MLGW history, was competed on-time and 17% under budget.
The Smart Meter System provides a wealth of added benefits to customers, including:
· Fewer estimated meter readings for faster, more accurate bills.
· Faster notification of potential water leaks, based on MLGW system alerts. For residential customers, and businesses with water connections of 2” or less, MLGW sends a customer letter if the Smart Meter System detects usage during every hour of a 24-hour period. If conditions persist, MLGW waits six months before sending another letter to give customers time to find and repair leaks and to avoid being perceived as a nuisance.
· Lower costs and quicker response for new service connection and electric service re-connection due to remote operations, which means also lower vehicle emissions.
· Enhanced safety measures due to MLGW’s ability to monitor electric meters for voltage and temperature issues, as well as inspection of electric meter sockets that resulted in repair of minor issues and replacement of hazardous sockets (which are owned by the customer) at MLGW’s expense.
· Minimal need for MLGW to visit the property, reducing days that gates must be unlocked and pets restrained, while also reducing miles driven and lowering vehicle emissions.
· Reduced utility theft, based on MLGW system alerts that allow for quicker response and apprehension of criminals, thereby reducing revenue losses.
· Access to interval meter data via My Account’s Explore Usage tools to understand how household activities impact utility consumption, which could lead to changes and savings. Interval data for business customers is planned for 2022.
· Optional residential PrePay program to allow more frequent, smaller payments toward utility costs, as well increase awareness of utility usage and ability to pay off existing account balances incrementally while maintaining utility service.
· Future residential Time-of-Use electric rate option to encourage shifting some electric consumption to lower-cost, off-peak hours. (MLGW must complete Customer Information System programming to automate billing before customers can enroll.)
- See the 5/1/2015 presentation to the MLGW Board.
Phase 1, 2013-2014. Phase 1 of MLGW’s initiative included the purchase of a combined 60,000 residential electric, natural gas and water smart meters and related systems. Meters were installed at approximately 24,000 homes over a nine-month period, along with a wireless telecommunications network to support meter reading and two-way communications that enable meters to notify MLGW of potential problems. Customers can view their electricity, gas and water usage through My Account as well as see how much their impending bill will be. Phase 1 delivered numerous immediate benefits, including:
- Detection of water leaks at approximately one-third of customers sites, enabling quicker customer notification
- Detection of voltage levels that alerted MLGW to inspect for potential problems before the customer was aware of an issue
- Detection of meter tampering, which resulted in lower utility theft
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.
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 modernized serves Downtown Memphis, government buildings and the region's major medical centers, including Regional One Health (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 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.