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Smart grid needs smarter grid designers

SUBNET Solutions Inc | Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The U.S. plans to invest billions of dollars in new grid modernization projects all over the country, which are expected to greatly improve the reliability of electrical distribution, as well as the operating efficiency of the utilities that manage the power network.

However, the promise of lower bills, cleaner air, improved service and greater reliability could easily fall through the cracks if the proper, appropriately designed utility programs are not in place, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council.

The smart grid offers enormous benefits, there's no doubt about that. However, according to Ralph Cavanagh, senior attorney and co-director of Natural Resources Defense Council's energy program, all of these benefits will hinge on how well these technologies and software are implemented.

"Smart grid need smart planners," he said.

According to the news source, smart grid technologies will be installed in every area of the grid, including power plants, transmission lines, office buildings and homes. These devices will allow utilities to automatically monitor energy consumption, fault events and other disruptions, and remotely alleviate whatever issues come up. The untold amounts of data that will be derived from these devices will help utilities increase efficiency and ultimately lead to lower electricity costs for customers.

This tangled system of sensors, monitors and data capturing devices will require specialized management, though, Cavanagh added.

"Well-designed programs and careful implementation are necessary. Smart grid programs need to consider sustainability and reduced carbon emissions as important factors in measuring success," he wrote in a blog for the NRDC.

Once the appropriate infrastructure is in place and the right, smart grid-savvy leaders are at the helm, the grid will become much more reliable, allowing utilities to expedite the diagnosis and repair of power outages that if go unchecked, can result in costly maintenance projects. Overall service is also greatly improved.

According to the news source, Oncor, a Dallas-based utility, recently reported that "20 percent of the time we respond to customer outages before or without ever receiving a customer call," a service  made possible by smart grid technologies.

As more utilities look to install such software and devices, SUBNET can help with the integration process, and ween utilities off dependence on experts. This allows utilities to install the upgrades more quickly and at lower costs than having to rely on these smart grid experts. 

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