The rural electric cooperatives in the U.S. are perhaps the smartest consumers of electrical technology in the country — farmers are traditionally the biggest risk takers in the market place and must manage these risk very successfully in order to survive. Here’s Dawson Public Power’s [a Lexington, Nebraska REC) take on “Smart Grid” common sense…
” WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 29, 2010 — I always get excited about the latest gadget to hit the market. It might cost a bit extra, but I simply have to have it. And sometimes it’s better to wait. Jumping into new technology can be great, but sometimes it’s not. At Dawson Public Power District we’ve read about and begun looking into the so-called “smart grid.” As with any cutting-edge concept, it seems new smart grid bells and whistles are touted daily. While we’ve been careful not to get caught up in the hype, I often have people ask, “What’s the buzz about?”
The North American electric grid—the largest interconnected machine on earth—operates as a humming highway moving electricity from power plants to your home. About 3,000 utilities operate 10,000 power plants nationally. All of this power—more than 1 million megawatts—flows across 300,000 miles of high-voltage transmission lines. And while the way we use electricity has changed drastically over the decades, most of the highway that delivers power to our homes was built 50 years ago.
As we talk about upgrading the nation’s grid from a hands-on, mechanical system to a digital network, there’s plenty of room for improvement—and potential miscalculations. While a smart grid can help utilities control costs, it can also be abused by big power companies and others to shift market risks onto consumers—something Dawson Public Power District doesn’t want to see happen.
That’s why, with some help from Uncle Sam, not-for-profit, locally-controlled electric utilities are testing some of these technologies to see what makes sense; what actually WORKS. Thanks to partnerships between electric cooperatives, public power districts, and NRECA’s Cooperative Research Network with the federal government, more than $600 million will be invested to deploy and study how digital smart grid technologies improve service for co-op members in 25 states.
On top of this, many other rural utilities are implementing smart grid upgrades consistent with long-range business plans to boost service reliability and operating efficiency. Through all of these efforts we will identify which technologies work and weed out those that may not deliver promised benefits.
Any smart grid needs to be flexible—some components don’t make sense everywhere. Automated meters and self-healing feeders may help reduce the number and duration of outages; in-home displays could increase customer awareness of how much electricity they use; there are lots of possibilities. Rest assured that your board of directors and management team at Dawson Public Power District will employ some hometown smarts of our own in how we approach the smart grid.
Our bottom line? We want to learn how to help you make wiser energy choices to keep your electric bill affordable. There’s a big difference between being on the cutting edge or the bleeding edge of technology. Dawson Power wants neither. We want the “proven edge” of technology so our investment is a common sense approach to what our customers will actually want and use and what the District can use to improve reliability. — Gwen Kautz (with op-ed input from NRECA)…”
At the same time, “the fact of the matter is that there does not exist a common base of knowledge, objectives, or outcomes, that can be applied to the megalithic, polymorphic, thing we think of as the Smart Grid. This means that individual organizations, regulators, customers, and implementers will likely have a different basis from which to develop appropriate solutions and timetables. As so often happens, the definition of common sense is not so common. That isn’t because the concerned parties aren’t sensible, it’s because they are highly sensible to their own uncommon needs.” A. Bochman, Smart Grid Security Blog