Segment and personalize programs for customers. This is one of the big pluses of today’s smart energy networks. They can consider multiple variables – like a utility customer’s preferences, system parameters, weather, cost of energy – to optimize and personalize rates and programs. As part of that personalization, a smart city’s utility, whether municipally owned or a private utility that operates in the city, can identify energy use patterns and then make customized recommentions to help customers get the best possible rates or assist with fraud and service connection issues.
Today many electric and gas utilities charge a single rate for every residential customer at every time of the day. In reality, the cost of energy varies widely depending on the time. In particular, electric energy can be very inexpensive at night when demand is low and the output from wind farms is high. But it can be very costly during hot summer days when air conditioners are cranked up, demand is very high and energy is scarce.
Smart meters and smart grids make it possible for utilities to offer a variety of programs to encourage energy efficiency and cost savings. Examples include time-of-use rates, peak-time rebates, efficiency incentives and demand response programs.
CenterPoint Energy in Texas completed installation of more than 2.2 million smart meters from Council member Itron as part of its smart grid initiative, which was designed to give consumers more control over their energy consumption.
Now CenterPoint customers have 15-minute interval access to their energy data from the Smart Meter Texas online web portal and have wireless capabilities to install in-home energy management devices.
“Our smart meter deployment has been extremely successful. Not only have we had compliments from our customers and the Public Utility Commission of Texas, we’ve also had compliments from the Department of Energy,” said Kenny Mercado, division senior vice president of Grid and Market Operations for CenterPoint Energy.
The Smart Grid Consumer Collaborative is a nonprofit organization focused on advancing a consumer-safe, consumer-friendly smart grid and has researched consumers and published reports on smart grid consumer education and segmentation. SGCC’s research shows that consumers fall into five broad segments ranging from Concerned Greens, those people who want a cleaner energy portfolio, to Do-It-Yourself and Save,
those people who want to save money and are likely to enroll in programs that will help them take action to do that. Both of these segments would likely be responsive to personalize programs that match their values around energy.
Joining with organizations like SGCC to obtain materials, collaborate with others and learn best practices for citizen engagement is one way to increase the likelihood that smart energy projects receive consumer support.
Facility helps public and private sector researchers scale up clean energy technologies
Located at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s campus in Golden, Colorado, the new 182,500-square-foot Energy Systems Integration Facility (ESIF) is the first facility in the United States to help both public and private sector researchers scale-up promising clean energy technologies – from solar modules and wind turbines to electric vehicles and efficient, interactive home appliances – and test how they interact with each other and the grid at utility-scale. The U.S. Congress provided $135 million to construct and equip the facility.
ESIF, which opened in 2013, houses more than 15 experimental laboratories and several outdoor test beds, including an interactive hardware-in-the-loop system that lets researchers and manufacturers test their products at full power and real grid load levels. The facility will also feature a petascale supercomputer that can support large-scale modeling and simulation at one quadrillion operations per second.