Duke Energy Research and Current Smart Grid Implimentation
As we are all keenly aware, the answer to efficient, clean, profitable power is comparable to searching for the Holy Grail. Strong headwinds face any power utilities efforts to build more carbon based power plants. Nuclear power, while clean in a sense, faces community shouts of “Not in my backyard. ” Duke Energy, and several other players in the power industry, has embraced the idea of more efficient delivery of its current power production, and, real time monitoring of power usage throughout its established grid.
This efficiency and monitoring capability has been labeled “Smart Grid Technology” by the power industry. While not alone in their quest, Duke is the largest investor in the technology in the United States. What is the smart grid? A smart grid is a power distribution system that uses digital technology to enable a two-way “conversation” between Duke Energy and its customers, using advanced meters and other high-tech communications equipment.
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It’s a new way of working with the customer, helping them to manage energy better, save money and help the environment by cutting existing output and thereby cutting carbon emissions into the environment. By receiving timely information about what is happening on the “grid”, the smart system allows the provider to quickly detect and resolve problems, prevent and shorten power-outages, improve service reliability and give the customers information they need to better manage their energy usage. How does it Work?
A “Smart Grid” starts by installing communication nodes alongside transformers on the existing power grid. These devices are the “brains” of the smart grid system. They create a virtual energy network – collecting data from “smart meters” installed at the end user locations as well as data from other digital equipment on the power lines, then send it over a wireless network back to Duke Energy and then back to the customer. The “smart meters” installed at the end user locations give the communication nodes, installed on the transformers, something to talk about.
Valuable data about a home or business usage is in constant streaming mode to Duke Energy. This data allows Duke to lower or raise production during high or low usage times. Without the Smart Grid, Duke’s output is at best a guessing game, and in fact during the day, up to 30% of electricity produced by Duke can go wasted. What does it look like? What about the cost to the customer? To cover the cost of grid modernization, customers in the service area will see incremental increases in their monthly electric bills each year.
Annually Duke will file a request with Power Utility Commission for the cost of their smart grid efforts less any savings realized from the use of the technology. Currently the PUC has capped the amount the customers will pay for the program, so increases in residential customers’ monthly bills will not exceed $0. 50 in year one, $1. 50 in year two, $3. 25 in years three, $5. 25 in year four, and capping at year five and forward at a maximum of $5. 25. These increases are not cumulative and are still subject to regulatory approval.