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Smart Grid Brings Electricity Delivery to 21st Century

February 23, 2012
By J.W. JOHNSON JR. - Staff Writer , The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

Citing increased regulations from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, American Electric Power officials estimate customers could see higher electricity costs in the future.

However, the company is also working on new ways to not only save energy, but also save customers money in the long run.

According to Tammy Ridout, spokeswoman for AEP, new regulations from the EPA limit production of certain emmissions from coal-fueled power plants. The end result will be power plant retirements and closures, emission reduction equipment installations and new generation construction. Those new mandates are additions to the $7.2 billion AEP has invested to reduce emissions since 1990, Ridout said. The company must comply with the new regulations by 2020.

Article Photos

AP Photo
William Gausman, Pepco Holding Inc. senior vce president of Asset Management and Planning, holds an electric meter with smart technology during a display of smart grid technology on Capitol Hill in Washington.

Ridout said AEP estimates the new rules will raise rates in the company's service territory, which includes all of the Ohio Valley, by at least 10 percent and as much as 35 percent. The company will have to spend between $6 billion and $8 billion to bring its facilities into compliance. Ridout said AEP has asked and will continue to lobby for a longer compliance timeframe and "a more practical approach to environmental regulations to minimize the cost to customers and ensure the company can continue to provide a reliable source of electricity."

However, in an effort to better manage energy use and save money, AEP plans to implement new technologies, including the use of smart meters and programmable communicating thermostats and in-home displays. Ridout said these technologies are referred to as "smart grid" technologies and they allow for two-way communication between the company and the utility customer to allow for better understanding of how electricity is being used.

The U.S. Office of Electricity Delivery & Energy Reliability says smart grids will significantly reduce energy costs for consumers at the expense of jobs previously done by workers, including gathering data or checking for broken equipment. This will now be done by computer once the grids are automated.

Fact Box

Q: Electricity costs have skyrocketed over the past five years. What's the future look like for the nation's power grid?

A: Many companies are working on what's become known as the "smart grid," where computers and sensors will regulate the flow of power for the nation. It is believed such technology will decrease overall power usage and also help to identify problems such as outages.

The goals of the smart grid are the ability for the grid to heal itself, motivate consumers to actively participate in operations of the grid, resist attack, provide higher quality power that will save money wasted from outages, accommodate all generation and storage options, enable electricity markets to flourish and run more efficiently and enable higher penetration of intermittent power generation sources.

Ridout said AEP is also looking into energy storage, which would allow for more reliability, in an effort to keep costs low and efficiency high for customers.

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