While debate continues on the level of savings, both short and long term, that can be achieved with smart metering, the latest to join the growing utility list demonstrating them is National Grid. In its frst year, the company's Smart Energy Solutions (SES) programme has recorded savings by 11,000 Worcester, MA customers of 2,300MWh – enough, apparently, to power the local library for 1 year – and US$1.25 million on their electric bills.
According to the company, these savings are in line with other, mostly opt-in, smart grid pilot programmes across the US.
Smart Energy Solutions programme
National Grid’s US$44 million SES programme, which was approved by the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities in August 2012, aims to give 15,000 Worcester customers greater control and convenience in managing their energy usage.
The solution has included approximately 15,000 smart meters as well as distribution automation equipment including switches and sensors that can isolate power outages and enable crews to be dispatched directly to the source of the problem to restore power.
A key phase of the SES programme began in early 2015 with the activation of two dynamic pricing plans: Smart Rewards Pricing and Conservation Day Rebate. Both these plans, made possible in part due to the meter enhancements, provided participants with opportunities to lower their energy bills during the summer of 2015.
During that summer, National Grid notified customers of 20 Conservation Days, when demand for energy was expected to be high due to heat and humidity and the price of electricity increased during designated hours. During such peak events customers utilizing no-cost in-home technologies, including digital picture frames, smart thermostats, smart plugs and the online energy portal, were able to reduce energy usage upwards of 30%. The average residential customer using the Smart Rewards Pricing plan saved more than $100 during 2015. The average residential customer taking the Conservation Day Rebate plan received a total of $20 in credits for reducing their usage during the 20 Conservation Days.
“We are thrilled with the encouraging results from the Smart Energy Solutions programme,” said Ed White, vice president, New Energy Solutions, National Grid. “We have learned a great deal, including that many customers are excited about the programme and want to proactively manage their energy use. We are continuing to enhance the programme and hope to gain even more insight in the coming year.”
The energy system was implemented by Bridge Energy Group.
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As part of the SES programme evaluation, National Grid explored customers’ expectations of the programme, their reasons for participating and their experience during the first summer of Conservation Days. Key findings include a 98% retention rate and 72% customer satisfaction rate.
On the distribution automation side, during two major events the technology helped reduce the time customers were interrupted by more than 75%.
Enhancing energy management
During 2016 National Grid is continuing to enhance the performance of the Smart Energy Solutions programme, the company said in a statement. These measures include:
• Exploring better ways to communicate with customers in advance of and during Conservation Days
• Enhancing the WorcesterSmart customer online portal to provide new types of incentives and redeemable rewards for customers to become more active in the SES programme
• Delivering “actionable” information to customers on how they are using energy and ways in which they can reduce their energy use and save money.
National Grid also has just launched in partnership with Earth Networks the ConnectedSolutions platform to customers in Massachusetts as well as Rhode Island.
ConnectedSolutions leverages the WeatherBug Home technology to enable customers to connect and manage smart devices and appliances for their home or business. To help them reduce their energy use, National Grid will provide savings and incentives.
WeatherBug Home integrates proprietary weather data with thermodynamic modeling and energy consumption data from connected devices, like smart thermostats. National Grid has found that using WeatherBug Home’s HVAC control and optimization capabilities saved 16.5% in electricity usage when cooling homes compared to HVAC savings from just a connected thermostat.