We began our SmartGridCity® demonstration project in 2008 in Boulder, Colo., to evaluate the potential of emerging smart grid technologies in a real-world setting. We had a long list of potential benefits to examine, fully expecting that some of our hypotheses would be proven while others would be disproved. The project was always about building a body of knowledge and data from which we could make future business decisions.
At the end of 2011, we filed information with the Colorado Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) updating the status of SmartGridCity and the value gained from it. The capital investment portion of the project is now complete.
SmartGridCity has produced significant improvements in electric service reliability, energy savings for customers and a new level of information for customers about their energy use. As a demonstration project, it also has yielded important information that will guide our grid modernization plans.
The benefits of the project include:
- Optimized future investments and avoided rate increases
- Lessons from SmartGridCity are helping us plan and make the right decisions as we reinvest in our distribution infrastructure in the future. The project informed us about which emerging technology components and capabilities we should consider and those we might want to disregard, helping to make the most effective investments possible.
- First-hand experience operating an end-to-end modern grid system
- SmartGridCity lessons have been integrated into our daily operations. Accordingly, Xcel Energy employees have gained practical insight that can come only from real-world, hands-on experience managing a more modern grid.
- Spin-off upgrades and modernization efforts
- Promising technologies that were initially conceived for the demonstration project are already providing benefits outside of SmartGridCity. The My Account web portal—now available to all Xcel Energy customers—and a feeder power factor improvement project in Englewood, Colo., designed to improve grid reliability, are just two examples of smart grid systems currently deployed outside of SmartGridCity.
- Significant customer-engagement insights
- SmartGridCity continues to provide us with valuable feedback to better understand how customers perceive and choose to use more modern energy technologies and product offerings. It is influencing customer experience and engagement strategies to allow us to better connect with customers and increase value, participation and satisfaction in future grid modernization efforts.
We are currently testing a multi-year pricing pilot that allows participating customers to save energy and money. About 4,000 customers with smart meters installed through SmartGridCity are enrolled in three exclusive pricing plans that encourage customers to conserve or shift their energy usage. In 2011, as part of the pricing pilot, we initiated 15 peak energy events when energy demand on the system was much higher than normal. Customers responded to these events based on terms of their respective plans. Across the three plans, customers saved more than 47,000 kilowatt-hours of energy. In particular, customers participating in a plan that includes lower prices during off-peak times, moderate prices during peak times or very high prices during peak energy events experienced the largest energy savings. On average those customers reduced energy use by 38 percent.
In 2012, we will continue to manage this pricing pilot and call additional peak energy events to gain further information regarding customer behavior. We also have deployed a limited number of in-home devices with participating customers to understand the impact these devices may have on energy consumption. These devices show energy information on a display in the customers' homes and offer additional energy control functionality.
Visit our SmartGridCity website.