Pacific Gas and Electric Co. (PG&E) spoke with California state regulators about smart grid modernizations the utility is making to the electric power grid to improve reliability and improve safety.
By integrating a wide range of advanced communications, computing, sensing and control technologies on its electric grid throughout Northern and Central California, PG&E is able to provide customers with more control of their energy bill while enabling the company to more quickly respond to outages and service requests.
Grid improvements include PG&E's outage detection program, which can check individual meters to determine whether or not power has been restored; self-healing circuits that reduce the average length of an outage by re-routing power flows; and high-tech monitoring equipment on the transmission system that provides early warning of potential problems so grid operators can take corrective actions before widespread outages occur.
Since the beginning of 2012, such systems have avoided almost 3.8 million customer outage minutes. Last year, PG&E customers experienced the fewest minutes without electricity in company history.
As part of PG&E's plan to enable new customer energy management capabilities, the utility will introduce or expand flexible pricing programs to give customers the opportunity to save money by shifting their energy use to times of the day when energy prices are lower. PG&E's SmartRate program is already has more than 120,000 residential customers enrolled in the program. In 2012, the program saved more than 500 MWh, more than double the energy savings in 2011.
In the coming years, PG&E will continue to roll out smart grid technologies that improve service and reliability, lower customer costs and incorporate more renewable energy onto the grid. Consistent with its focus on technologies that meet customer needs, PG&E is pursuing such promising technologies only after thorough testing and evaluation, much of which takes place at the company's Applied Technology Services lab in San Ramon.