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Smart grid in Ohio

We live at a time when our power grid grows daily in size and complexity while the technology we use to run this system becomes increasingly outdated. The grid has served us well for more than a century, but the time has come for a modernized system capable of meeting 21st century demands. We need a “smarter” grid to deliver and manage electricity.

What is smart grid?

Smart grid applies advanced technology to our existing electric system, making the system more reliable and efficient while giving utility customers more control over their usage. In order to be effective, the smart grid must begin at the power plant and run all the way through the delivery system to customers’ meters. System upgrades include transmission and distribution monitoring devices, smart meters, smart appliances and energy efficiency tools. Smart grid will integrate renewable and traditional energy sources into one system, reducing carbon emissions caused from coal and gas power plants.

How will smart grid make my electric service more reliable?

Smart grid technology makes the power grid more reliable by making the response to outages more efficient. When outages occur, smart grid will allow utilities to immediately locate where an outage occurs and then automatically re-route power to where it is needed. Automated systems reduce the risk of overload and outages caused by human error.

What is a smart meter?

A smart meter enables two-way communication between your home and the utility. Unlike a traditional electric meter, a smart meter enables the utility to monitor and bill your electric usage electronically without sending a meter reader. Smart meters will gradually replace traditional electric meters.

How do smart meters help customers save electricity and money?

Smart meters help customers control, reduce and most importantly understand their use of electricity. Over time, electric customers in Ohio will use smart meters and related smart grid technology to control their major appliances and use real-time pricing to adjust their usage behavior.

Customers will have the option to assist utilities through voluntary “load shedding.”  Utilities will send signals to thermostats and other appliances to adjust the devices’ activity until another signal is delivered to restore normal activity. Thermostats can be adjusted without being completely turned off.

Customers will also have pricing options. Since one pricing structure may not be suitable for all, customers will be able to choose how they pay for electricity, increasing the amount of control they have over their billing.

Will the electric company be able to control customers’ electricity usage?

The purpose of this technology is not to give control of electricity usage to the power company but rather to make customers more informed and allow communication between customers and their utilities. All too often, people consume electricity without knowing the actual amount they are using and how much they are being charged to use it. Smart grid works to change this and empowers customers by putting them in control of their usage.

When will Ohio’s electric utilities begin deploying smart grid?

  • AEP-Ohio has deployed 110,000 smart meters in central Ohio to test the applicability of their smart grid goals.

  • Dayton Power and Light is to file an application with the Commission by July 1, 2014 for implementation and deployment of smart grid technology.   

  • Duke Energy Ohio is engaged in a five-year plan to deploy smart meters in southwest Ohio. The company has deployed 426,000 electric meters and 288,000 natural gas meters.

  • First Energy initiated a one-year pilot program in spring 2011 to deploy 5,000 meters to Cleveland Electric Illuminating customers. The company may deploy an additional 39,000 meters between 2012 and 2013.

How can customers ensure that their smart meters are accurate?

Smart meters are as accurate as electric traditional meters. If a customer believes their smart meter is inaccurate, they should compare their current usage to a similar period in the past when they had their old meter. Customers may also ask the utility to test their meter.

Are smart grid and billing information secure?

Utility computer systems will communicate with customer smart meters and online accounts but customer computers will not be able to communicate with their meter, only with the utility’s secure online systems. This prevents customers from accidentally (or maliciously) uploading viruses into security networks and creating problems in the system. 

Will electric companies sell customer usage information to other companies?

No. Account usage information is shared between customers and their utility only.

Will utility customers pay for these enhancements?

Smart grid is partially funded by utilities and their customers. The federal government also supports smart grid and has provided assistance to the state of Ohio and it’s electric utilities. In August 2009, $1.2 million in federal stimulus money was awarded to the state of Ohio and an additional $204 million was awarded to Duke Energy Ohio. AEP-Ohio received $75 million to demonstrate a secure, interoperable and integrated Smart Grid Regional Demonstration Program. 

Saving energy reduces costs to the utility company and in turn reduces costs to ratepayers.  By implementing smart grid, consumers and companies will avoid more expensive alternatives, such as building new power plants, and accomplish the goal of meeting Ohio’s growing energy needs.

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