ComEd Looks to Blockchain to Manage Increasingly Complex Grid
Top consumer smart grid news hand-selected and brought to you by the Smart Energy Consumer Collaborative.
Another utility is jumping on the blockchain bandwagon. ComEd is partnering with Xage to test how its blockchain-based software might help the utility manage an increasingly complex distribution grid. As customer-owned solar and storage becomes more common, electricity is more often flowing in multiple directions. Utilities are looking for better ways to securely track and verify how electrons are moving around on the system. The information will be critical to ensure owners of distributed resources are fairly compensated and can exchange energy securely with other resources on the grid.
Electric utilities of all types are experiencing significant change on many fronts — increasing competition and business complexity; flat or declining traditional kilowatt-hour sales; growing customer expectations paired with reduced energy consumption from the grid; mounting legislative and regulatory mandates/constraints, rising costs; and expanding revenue opportunities. In response to these rapid changes, SMUD created a five-year strategic plan in 2016, to maintain its position as an industry leader and customers’ provider of choice.
Itron recently signed a contract to deploy its OpenWay Riva IoT solution and 250,000 OpenWay Riva electricity meters to modernize Rocky Mountain Power’s existing electricity system and improve grid awareness. Itron will deploy its OpenWay Riva IoT AMI solution in Idaho and will also help integrate the utility’s existing Itron automated meter reading solution in Utah into the OpenWay Riva network to prolong the useful life of the utility’s existing asset investments while upgrading to an AMI solution.
The City of Painesville, Ohio has formed a partnership with Efficiency Smart to provide energy efficiency services for Painesville Municipal Electric customers. Efficiency Smart is administered for AMP by VEIC Efficiency Smart’s operations are based in Columbus, Ohio. Since 2011, it has served 58 of AMP's member utilities in Delaware, Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania. Painesville’s public power utility expects to save about 2,641 MWh of energy over the course of its three-year contract with Efficiency Smart and to reduce its summer peak by 935 kW.
Home batteries proved their resilience value during Vermont's Halloween blackout. A major rain and wind storm struck the state at the close of October, knocking out power to some 115,000 customers. Among those affected, 1,100 homes managed to keep the lights on thanks to pilot programs specifically designed to promote resilient backup power with energy storage. The battery backup service lasted nine hours on average, but the longest instance stretched to 82 hours. The event offers a timely data point for other jurisdictions mulling the use of home batteries for resilience.
Dominion Energy said recently that it is expanding its Solar for Students program with new sites in Virginia and the program’s first sites in North Carolina and South Carolina. The program offers K-12 students and educators a hands-on learning experience in which they generate electricity from a solar array installed on grounds accessible to students. Each solar array features a visual display that shows students and faculty real-time data on the amount of electricity generated, and each participating organization receives training sessions and curriculum on harnessing solar energy.
Last month’s preventative power shutoffs in California highlighted the vulnerability of the electricity grid to threats exacerbated by a changing climate. In the wake of the forced outages, much has been written about the ability of solar photovoltaic arrays working in tandem with stationary battery storage systems to keep the lights on when the grid goes down. But what about the mobile battery packs carried in the hundreds of thousands of electric vehicles now on the road in California?
Alliant Energy recently announced plans to add up to 1,000 MW of solar generation in Wisconsin by the end of 2023. The solar additions are part of its “Powering What's Next” plan, which also has a heavy emphasis on a transition to customer participation and grid modernization. The investor-owned utility will invest $1.8 billion in its network through 2020 to improve the security and reliability of its digital communications with distributed energy resources.