MOUNDSVILLE - Though the technology known as the "smart grid" has been discussed in theory for years, ever-increasing electricity costs have some power companies putting more emphasis on making it a viable option.
Increasing electricity costs have been attributed to new regulations from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which have a major impact on the cost of energy production, particularly that generation that comes from coal.
Officials with American Electric Power said limitations on emissions from coal-fired power plants will not only lead to plant closures and retirements, but also new plant construction that will drive costs even higher. That increase is in addition to the more than $7 billion the company has spent on emission reductions since 1990.
William Gausman, Pepco Holding senior vice president, holds an electric meter with smart grid technology.
AEP spokeswoman Tammy Ridout said the company anticipates the new federal rules on coal-fired emissions 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 time frame and more practical environmental regulations to minimize the cost to customers and ensure the company can continue to provide reliable energy.
Because of the concerns over cost increase and in an effort to conserve electricity, AEP plans to implement the use of smart meters and programmable communicating thermostats and in-home displays, as well as other technologies associated with the Smart Grid.
Those technologies allow two-way communication between AEP and the customer, while also allowing AEP to monitor when power is being used and when it would be efficient to limit electricity to a residence.
Officials with the U.S. Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability say 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.
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.