Pioneering municipal utility – a smart grid poster child

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  As the first American utility to receive smart grid stimulus funding and as the first to be “completely operational with smart grid technology,” Glendale Water and Power (GWP), located in Southern California, is a bit of a smart grid poster child.

In the GWP system, a single communication system is handling both power and water. Anchored by a suite of technology from Smart Cities Council member Itron, the system includes an Itron advanced wireless communication network that integrates both electric and water meters. It also features leak detection technology for the water system and Itron’s meter data management solution to manage the huge volumes of data the system generates and enable other smart grid programs and applications.

GWP completed installation of the system, which included 83,000 Itron smart electric meters and 33,000 smart water meters, in 2011. Components of the overall smart grid system included in-home display units that provide electricity and water usage information, costs and control to consumers as well as thermal storage units, electric vehicle smart charging, demand response and distribution automation.

Speaking at a conference after the installation was complete, then GWP General Manager Glenn Steiger talked about the project. “The key thing to remember is that smart grid is really an IT communication system,” he explained. “The heart of the system and the ongoing applications are IT-driven. To be successful, you have to shift focus from hardware and infrastructure to IT.”

On the water side, the system is providing leak detection capability that is saving precious water in perennially water-challenged Southern California, and also saving money in water they didn’t have to purchase. “We’re actually optimizing the water system with the data we’re collecting through the electric system,” Steiger said, referring to the energy costs associated with treating and delivering clean water to Glendale residents.

Smart grid technology ultimately comes down to saving money, Steiger said, for the municipal utility but also cost containment for its customers. GWP’s system and the data it delivers have enabled it to streamline operations, improve business processes, and roll fewer trucks, he added. That means keeping costs low for customers, which leads to strong customer support.

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