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Exploring Technologies: Day 2

By Zachary Hoffman

COLUMBUS, OH (July 26, 2017) - Day two of PowerForward: Exploring Technologies put a heavy focus on the utilization of data and the technologies that the grid modernization effort should focus on first.

The first half of the day focused on the requirements needed to enable the electric distribution grid of the future, as well as the different opportunities and challenges associated with the deployment and interaction of new technologies.

In the day’s opening presentation, Paul Alvarez of Wired Group discussed what he saw as the greatest challenge that Ohio would face in deploying advanced technologies.

“There is no assumption that if you put the technology in on this side, you are going to get the benefits on that side,” stated Alvarez.

Pointing to a number of specific technologies, he pressed the idea that the PUCO needs to define specific goals and focus on the possible outcomes before fully implementing anything.

“What encourages me about the PowerForward initiative is that you’re trying to figure these things out ahead of time,” stated Alvarez. “The key to these technologies is, how do we translate them into capabilities.”

In the first panel of the day, Ed Beroset of EPRI, Katrina Polk of Itron and Larry Dickerman of Landis+Gyr discussed the management and utilization of data generated by smart grid technologies.

“Where is the data?” asked Beroset. According to his EPRI studies, 97 percent of it is coming from polyphaser and single phase meters, and it could be very useful in efforts to improve the grid.

Polk largely agreed with that sentiment, pointing out that a typical smart meter can provide an incredible amount of usable data each day.

“A typical smart meter can take 32 measurements per second,” stated Polk. “That is 2.7 million data points taken per day.”

Polk believes that smart meters can also provide many more benefits. She stated that smart meters work as a platform that can help with increasing reliability, theft detection, renewables and more.

In response to a question from the Commission about what he thought the most easily attainable upgrades to the grid might be, Larry Dickerman stated that advanced metering infrastructure (AMI), also known as smart meters, would be a good place to start. He stated that an AMI system is an easy first step that can pay for itself in time.

Dickerman believes that AMI data could help create a better cost-benefit analysis of future technologies and would increase reliability across the grid.

In the second panel of the day, Joydeep Mitra of Michigan State University, Burt Mayer of Utilidata, Wassim Akhdar of Varentec and Todd Ryan of Smart Wires discussed the benefits of distribution automation circuit reconfiguration (DACR), Volt/VAR optimization (VVO) and control (VVC), and conservation voltage reduction (CVR).

While discussing DACR, Mitra stated that the most important goal was to increase reliability and self-healing.

“The motivation for DACR was to provide higher reliability and reduce downtime,” state Mitra. “The main operations involve sensing, protection and restoration.”

Mitra went on to discuss how the installation of something like re-closers, which can sense faults in the system and respond by closing and opening new paths, can help to keep power on for more customers during outages.

Mayer put much of his focus on VVO, which he stated is about optimizing the voltage for customers at all points of the line, while minimizing waste. He believes VVO is especially beneficial to grid modernization because it is easier to implement.

“VVO doesn’t require any sort of customer behavior change,” stated Mayer. “In the case of VVO, no one sees that anything has changed, other than a three to five percent reduction in their bill.”

Akhdar also focused on VVO, stating that “if CVR is rolled out nationwide, you are looking at a three percent reduction of energy usage nationally, which is huge.”

The second half of the day focused on the perspectives of Ohio’s utilities and the investments they need to support a modernized grid.

Scott Osterholt of AEP Ohio, Joe Bentley of The AES Corporation, Lee Mazzocchi of Duke Energy and Eileen Mikkelsen of FirstEnergy Corp. filled out the final two panels of the day.

Osterholt noted that AEP Ohio had already been rolling out many of the different technologies mentioned throughout the day, such as AMI, DACR and VVO.

“We focused on what is the best technology for the customers,” stated Osterholt. “What we found is that AMI, DACR and VVO drives the most benefits for our customers.”

According to Osterholt, AEP has projected that AMI, DACR and VVO could see 1.4 billion dollars worth of benefits derived by customers over the next 15 years. He also noted that these technologies do a great job of decreasing carbon pollution, stating that “the phase 2 project should take off the equivalency of 27,300 cars on the road annually,” referring to AEP Ohio’s gridSMART project.

Bentley agreed with Osterholt’s sentiments and noted that The AES Corporation has had great success with their own rollout of AMI technology in Indianapolis. He noted that smart meters are very beneficial for the future of machine learning, stating that “there is a tremendous amount of data that comes in.”

Mazzocchi and Mikkelsen held many of the same feelings, and places much of their focus on how newer technologies could help increase reliability for their customers.

Mazzochi discussed the merits of grid-hardening technologies and programs, such as Duke Energy’s Targeted Undergrounding program. He stated that the company wanted to move the poorest performing segments of their grid underground, which would help to limit storm damage and resulting outages.

Mikkelsen touched on the many of the same topics, noting that all of Ohio’s electric utilities appeared to share many of the same visions. She noted that reliability and safety are the highest priorities of FirstEnergy, and technologies like AMI, VVO and DACR could help with that.

Day three of PowerForward Phase 2 will shift the focus to integrating distributed energy resources and energy storage. Join us tomorrow, starting at 9 a.m. (EST).

The day three agenda and live webcast are available on the PUCO website.