Member Spotlight: Austin Energy

About Austin Energy
Austin Energy, a department of the City of Austin, is the second-largest municipally owned utility in Texas. As a customer-driven, community-focused utility, Austin Energy serves a population of over one million residents in the greater Austin area with a mission to safely deliver clean, affordable, reliable energy and excellent customer service. Austin Energy is a vertically integrated utility, owning and operating generation, transmission and distribution of electricity.

Austin Energy’s Strategic Plan, 2017-2021, sets a new Vision for the utility: to drive customer value in energy services with innovative technology and environmental leadership. Strategic goals and initiatives to monitor market, technology, regulatory, customer and community trends are reflected in utility investments for present and expected end-consumer needs.

Grid Modernization
Austin Energy’s grid modernization efforts focus on projects and programs that safely advance and support:

  • Reliability
  • Asset management
  • Resiliency
  • Customer access to data
  • Interoperability
  • Integration of Distributed Energy Resources (DER)
  • Operational efficiencies
  • Outage management and communication

All influence customer satisfaction and improve customer experience. Grid modernization creates an opportunity to provide customers with valuable, actionable information when they need it and in the manner they want to receive it. Featured below are projects exemplifying achievements and research to transform Austin Energy’s grid.

Customer Driven
Austin Energy has enhanced outage management communications and improved customer satisfaction by leveraging Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) and an Advanced Distribution Management System (ADMS). AMI alerts the Energy Control Center of outages before customers report them, and ADMS integrates the utility’s upgraded outage maps, which allows customers to better track restoration efforts online or on a smartphone (See Austin Energy’s Outage Map and Outage Mobile Alerts video tutorials).

Other customer driven initiatives are the deployment of Volt-VAR Optimization/Conservation Voltage Reduction (VVO/CVR) and implementing Fault Location Technology. VVO/CVR reduces peak demand and customer energy consumption, and Fault Location Technology reduces customer outage times.

Community Focused
Slated for completion in early Fall 2019, the Austin Sustainable and Holistic Integration of Energy Storage and Solar Photovoltaics (SHINES) project seeks to integrate solar power, battery energy storage, smart inverters, forecasting tools, market signals, advanced communications and a software optimization platform to advance smart utility initiatives. The goal of the project is to optimize the value stream for solar and storage with a business model developed for grid, commercial and residential applications. The extensive efforts are funded by The U.S. Department of Energy and Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. The SHINES project supports the City of Austin goal to reach 65 percent renewable energy generation by 2027. After completing the project, Austin Energy will be poised to develop new or adjust existing customer programs for DER that create meaningful value to residential and commercial customers.

Opportunities and Challenges
As utilities today prepare for future uncertainties, Austin Energy strives to leverage technology in new ways to inform decisions, manage reliability and change customer engagement models. The transition from historically acting as a commodity provider to delivering energy, data and services is exciting. For Austin Energy, building out new platforms that are secure, robust and accurate will ultimately build better relationships with energy consumers.

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