Smart Grids use modern technologies to increase energy reliability and improve customer service by:
- Managing supply and demand more efficiently
- Empowering customers with more energy options and usage control
- Proactively monitoring outages
- Increasing operational efficiencies and capabilities
What Is a Smart Grid?
A Smart Grid is made up of an electric grid, a communications network, hardware, and software. These technologies integrate seamlessly to monitor, control, and manage the creation, distribution, storage, and consumption of energy.
The Smart Grid of the future is distributed and interactive. It allows reroutes and repairs of outages without requiring notification from customers. This capability can substantially reduce the frequency and duration of an outage, and the number of customers affected.
Austin Energy’s Smart Grid
Your municipally-owned electric utility is reinventing the way it delivers electric service. The ultimate goal of our integrated Smart Grid is to serve you better through increased reliability, customer communication, and choice.
Austin Energy has been preparing our Smart Grid for more than a decade.
The core building blocks include:
- A telecommunications network — a combination of fiber and wireless technologies
- Hardware — 440,000 meters, sensors, network gear, computers, servers, and storage
- Software — applications, data warehousing, interoperability platforms, and proactive management tools
Austin Energy’s Smart Grid runs from the power plant, through transmission and distribution systems, the meter, and back to the utility.
Our managed Smart Grid includes:
- 1 million consumers and 5,000 businesses
- 440 square miles of service territory
- 500,000 devices
- Nearly 12,000 miles of transmission and distribution lines
- 68 substations
- Nearly 150,000 poles
We also participate in a “real-life Smart Grid laboratory.” Austin Energy is a founding and active partner of Pecan Street Inc. (formerly The Pecan Street Project), a collaborative research and development demonstration effort located in the Mueller redevelopment community.
Pecan Street studies, tests, and helps commercialize the benefits of Smart Grid technologies with a focus on residential applications. Thanks largely in part to Pecan Street, Austin is currently the top city in the nation with the highest concentration of plug-in electric vehicles, with more than 80 in one square mile at Mueller.
Benefits of a Smart Grid
A Smart Grid enables:
- Real-time meter reads online or by phone
- Remote service turn-on and shut-off
- Complex billing structures, such as Time of Use billing and rates
For customers, it means:
- Quicker outage restoration
- Greater convenience — no more need to unlock your gates or put away your dogs for meter reads
- Better control over personal energy use — web-based management tools are commercially available now
- Improved energy efficiency and solar programs
Smart grid optimization means we can all benefit from improvements such as:
- Helping to enable our renewable energy goals
- Improving operational efficiency, which lowers costs
- Helping to ensure fairness and improving safety by reducing energy theft
- Improving planning and management of load distribution
- Reducing need for extra generation and transmission capacity
- Supporting the local clean-tech economy
The Future Is Now
Austin Energy’s Smart Grid is dynamic and evolving. Our entire service territory uses smart meters and we have installed approximately 100,000 smart thermostats in homes and businesses. Cycling these associated air conditioners off for a short period of time at the height of summer usage can reduce peak demand by about 35 MW.
Smart grid components currently underway include:
- Meter Data Management System — allows two-way communication between meters and Austin Energy
- Distribution Management System — allows for situational awareness, telemetry, and control of our distribution system
- Distribution Automation System — allows for automated operations
In the end, smart energy is largely about making smart choices that support efficiencies and are kind to the environment. We also believe the energy-water nexus is important, as well. Rainwater catchment systems and reclaimed water use are large components of the whole Smart Grid picture. Smart energy choices include:
- Distributed generation — for example, solar rooftops and micro wind
- Energy storage
- Smart consumer appliances (and using them at the right time — not during peak demand)
- Plug-in electric vehicles, such as Plug-In Austin