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Smart grid helps EPB Chattanooga keep costs down after storm

SUBNET Solutions Inc | Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Utility EPB Chattanooga's new smart grid system faced the ultimate test last July, when a devastating derecho moved through the area and inflicted serious damage to the region's electric infrastructure.

However, thanks to the smart grid technologies in which the utility invested in the years leading up to the storm, EPB Chattanooga, which has a customer base of about 170,000, cut the number of potential power outages at least by half, said Jim Douglass, manager of smart grid development at the utility.

According to GreenTech Media, Glass said that in the first few weeks after the storm, the utility could not put an exact number on the savings that were a direct result of the smart grid technologies. But new data has since surfaced that uncovered the exact amount of savings incurred by the company.

Since 2011, EPB has been installing hundreds of automated switched across its distribution infrastructure, and has also introduced one of the fastest internet pipelines in the world to its communication platform. Together, these two technologies helped the utility fend off serious outages during the summer wind storm.

According to the news provider, EPB lowered the duration of outages by 55 percent, and the speedier recovery time led to savings of $1.4 million. The switches saved 58 million minutes of customer interruption, and power was brought back online about one and a half days sooner than it would have had the smart grid switches not been installed.

Although there were certainly outages to go around, thousands of customers were able to have their power restored remotely - one of the biggest benefits of installing such systems.

“If we can make a significant impact on outages in our community, we’re improving the bottom line for businesses," Glass said.

Utilities all over the country have been installing smart switches onto their distribution equipment, however, EPB's project is generally regarded as one of the best for automated feeder switches, which have been installed across a 600-square-mile area. The project was funded through stimulus grants, which have helped more than 5,700 feeder switches link up with grid infrastructure around the country.

SUBNET's Unified Access Control Security product helps utilities access and manage the thousands of intelligent electronic devices that have been installed throughout the grid, providing quick and easy access to remote IEDs without hassling with logins, resetting forgotten passwords or dealing with dial-up procedures. 

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