The demand for efficiency in power usage doesn’t negate the need for power across every industry and community. As much as well-meaning individuals strive for less reliance on power and greater consumption of efficient resources, the reality is that the world works on power. The key to satisfy the demand on both sides is to develop resources that enable organizations keep pace with market trends, the consumption of big data and utility changes with less reliance on fossil fuels. It is the age of the smart grid.
A recent case study, OG&E’s Smart Grid Revolutionizes Network Control and a video on the subject both highlight a partnership with Alcatel-Lucent (News - Alert) (News - Alert) and how the company introduced a dynamic communications IP/MPLS network to enable OG&E and its customers across Arkansas and Oklahoma to moderate the demand on power while also increasing efficiency and savings across the board. According to Ken Grant, Managing Director of Customer Solutions for OG&E, this migration allowed the organization to become more data-intensive, to base key decision on better information.
As the largest regulated electric utility in Oklahoma, OG&E has a history of innovation in its field. Wanting to continue the trend, the utility implemented a Positive Energy (News - Alert) (News - Alert) Smart grid program. The goal was to reduce the need for additional fossil fuel. To do so, the utility needed to create additional capacity. To achieve optimal efficiencies, Grant needed to work with his team to develop a new strategy.
This strategy relied on a combination of demand response systems, a highly efficient transmission network and wind investment. This new platform required a technology-enabled program to monitor the system in real-time, while also reaching endpoints within the residential market. The new Smart grid offered the necessary monitoring and control tools to allow for the location and isolation of faults, the preparation of switching orders, the regulation of voltage and to optimize the flow of reactive power in an effort to reduce losses and energy demand.
“We wanted to make the grid as efficient as possible, so we knew there were some projects we could do on the distribution automation side, including a capacitor project that would allow us to better control voltage on the grid, increase efficiency and reduce losses on the system,” Grant said. “We also built the smart grid platform to enable technology so we could provide energy use and cost information to our customers, allowing them to make informed decisions about their energy use.”
With this innovative introduction of an end-to-end smart grid, OG&E could a proactive and more efficient approach to providing for the energy demands of its customer base. The utility would also achieve the ability to:
- Read meters remotely
- Connect or disconnect meters remotely
- Avoid truck rolls related to those activities
- Reduce the cost of standard activities
The Technology Partner
To accomplish these goals OG&E needed a proven partner and turned to Alcatel-Lucent (News - Alert) due to the company’s breadth of logistical and technical expertise. Alcatel-Lucent could also deliver on the expected performance guarantees, such as prioritizing backbone traffic, the reliability of the system, the quality of service guarantee and overall network performance. It was also a benefit to OG&E that Alcatel-Lucent could provide on-site engineering and project management on a full-time basis. Complex Project, Real ResultsWhile relying on the smart grid was a viable move for the utility in shoring up its efforts to promote more efficient energy use, the implementation of a two-layered, IP/MPLS Communications Network was critical. The right backend system ensured OG&E could promote an aggressive schedule and demand rigorous technical specifications to meet its expectations. And the results and benefits are measurable:
- Peak demand is reduced
- Overall customer demand reduced by 2 percent per year
- Demand response savings
- Operational efficiencies
- Defer fossil fuel reliance to 2020
- $22 million in savings by 2013
The reliance on power will not deviate, even with the trend toward more energy efficient operations. For utilities, however, there are methods by which the benefits of the smart grid can be maximized for overall improvements and network integration to reduce overhead. In the end, the customer enjoys lower costs and an indirect contribution to the more efficient use of available resources.
Edited by Peter Bernstein