The technology and gadgets we rely on today are much faster, more efficient and less costly than they once were. When cellular technology first debuted, the portable phone was expensive, clunky and required a battery in a bag in order to work – nothing like the smart phones in use today that fit in your pocket. This evolution of technology has occurred in every industry; the electric industry is no exception. And one thing is certain – tomorrow’s technology will be even faster, more efficient and more affordable.
Electric vehicles, smart appliances, energy storage and distributed solar generation are among the technologies we are adapting to and incorporating into our current infrastructure.
Three forces shape AEP’s advanced energy and digital technology strategy to ensure we are meeting customers’ needs:
- The types of technologies being deployed;
- When these technologies become cost-effective; and,
- The policies that can influence the deployment of these technologies onto the electrical grid.
One of AEP’s largest technology initiatives, called gridSMART®, integrates a host of advanced grid technologies into the existing electric network that can improve service quality and reliability, lower energy consumption, and offer additional customer benefits. The new technologies can help us improve our efficiency, identify and respond to outages more quickly, and better monitor and control operation of the distribution system. gridSMART® also provides customers with new and innovative programs and pricing options that allow them to monitor and control their own energy use, saving resources and money.
Applying technology on our distribution system through monitoring and controlling voltage is another advancement to reduce the amount of energy that must be produced and delivered to customers on demand. Known as Volt Var Optimization (VVO), this technology has proven its technical viability and energy efficiency potential. Typically, customers receive electricity at a voltage between 114 and 126 volts. Using the full range of voltage is common practice in our industry. Studies and recent experience are showing that optimizing voltage – delivering voltages that more closely match the voltage level customers’ equipment was designed for – benefits customers and the grid. Customers continue to receive the electricity they need while reducing their demand from the grid and lowering their consumption. This contributes to energy efficiency at the customer’s location and makes for more efficient use of the distribution system.
Deployment of VVO began in AEP Ohio as part of the gridSMART® Demonstration Project and has since expanded to Indiana Michigan Power, Kentucky Power and Public Service Company of Oklahoma. Early results indicate that reductions in energy consumption by customers averaging 3 percent are achievable with this technology in operation. The Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission and Michigan Public Service Commission have each ruled that VVO can be recognized as an energy efficiency program in their respective states. AEP’s operating companies will be selectively reviewing options for deploying this technology where conditions are favorable.