Experts Examine Smart Grid PilotsBy Victoria A. Rocha | ECT Staff Writer Published: September 22nd, 2011
The wide range of smart grid pilot demonstration projects has helped advance smart grid standards even as the technology continues to take shape, said members of a panel at GridWeek 2011.
The role of smart grid pilot projects in technology advancement was the topic of the Sept. 15 closing session of GridWeek 2011, which brought 1,000 vendors, regulators, utility officials and lawmakers to Washington, D.C.
Panelists provided an overview of the $3.4 billion smart grid demonstrations funded by the Department of Energy, the Electric Power Research Institute and electric utilities. One of those 100 or so projects is the NRECA-Cooperative Research Network Smart Grid Demonstration Project.
While some of the projects will take time to demonstrate, some of the smart grid’s projected benefits, such as lower operating expenses at utilities and home energy management services, are farther along.
“In large part, a lot of demonstrations are turning the corner,” said Matt Wakefield, senior program manager at the Electric Power Research Institute.
The DOE pilots are moving forward on several fronts, said Patricia Hoffman, who, as assistant secretary for the Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability, is running the agency’s smart grid demonstrations.
“They have been able to show customer satisfaction with respect to improved restoration times,” said Hoffman, adding that the pilots also have shown “flexibility” of sensors in communicating with transmission systems and adding additional “megawatts of capacity.”
But the panelists also cautioned that the industry will benefit from the smart grid pilots only through regular communication of successes and challenges with stakeholders and consumers.
For example, smart grid pilots, through use of digital technology, are collecting lots of data on trends and usage.
“How do we get the most out of this data that we have available?” Hoffman asked. “A lot of it is data developed in partnership with consumers and application developers. How do we continue to expand that” to meet the expectations of consumer advocates and regulators?
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