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Pepco president cites storm recovery
as immediate smart grid value

Outage for 1,100 customers cut to 200 in 59 seconds

Rockville, MD (October 4, 2012) -- Pepco's deployment of smart grid technology is already offering benefits to the utility and its customers -- and will provide more in the future, Pepco President Thomas Graham told attendees of the GridWeek 2012 conference in Pepco's home base of Washington, DC. Graham called the deployment the "biggest transformation" of Pepco's system in his career. The most tangible value of smart grid technology for utilities "at this early stage" is operational with particular benefit in storm recovery, Graham said.

The value proposition for customers is getting their service restored a little faster, said Graham. And speeding restoration reduces the impact of system damage to customers, he added. 

QUOTABLE: Smart grid communication devices on the distribution system of Maryland have allowed us to remotely lock and unlock circuits to isolate an area of system damage, reroute power and thus cut the number of customers impacted by that damage by more than half in a matter of seconds.
    Thomas Graham, president, Pepco


"We've had a situation, for instance, in our Prince George's [County, Md] territory, where … a tree has hit a line. We had 1,100 customers out of service and within 59 seconds, we were able to reroute service. So now, instead of 1,100 customers, we had just 200."

Pepco saw savings

"We've gone through two storm seasons with smart grid at least partially deployed in the [Pepco] service territory and we've realized savings," Graham said. Hurricane Irene hit Pepco's Delaware service territory in 2011, he noted.

Smart meters allowed us to confirm when power had restored to a number of customers," letting the firm eliminate "about 600 truck rolls," Graham said. "Those are locations that we know we didn't have to go to because those customers were restored."

Then, this summer, the massive "derecho" storm -- a rare, fast-onset storm with hurricane-strength winds -- cut power to some 483,000 Pepco customers, Graham reported. "In that particular situation in Washington, DC, we were able to save about 796 visits to customers.

"And in our Maryland service territory, we pinged that system about 2,600 times. So again, that is the value from an outage-protection perspective," he said.

How is value measured?

The challenge for Pepco is to communicate to customers that they received value from the technology, Graham said. "They were only out for about a minute but they could have been out for several hours -- but they never know that," he said.

The IOU's business case for smart grid deployment is based on the costs of deployment being offset by utility savings over time, he added. "I'm very happy to say that our experience proves that."

"There are further ways that we're beginning to extract value from smart grid, but they are harder to count or financially assess. How do you assign a dollar value to the change in the relationship with a customer?" he said.

Pepco likely will not be able in the short-term associate new earnings or specific savings with its smart grid deployments, Graham said, adding "but smart grid does change how our customers view us and that could change our regulatory outcomes [and] success of our rate cases in the future," he added.

This story was originally published inSmart Grid Today on Wednesday, October 3, 2012.


SMART GRID TODAY'S MISSION is to deliver daily, unbiased, comprehensive and original reporting on emerging trends, applications and policies driving the modern utility industry -- in a signature format that features highly concise and easy-to-understand news copy based on trusted reporting, exclusive interviews, informed analysis and strategic insights that our subscribers rely on to succeed every business day. Smart Grid Today is published 247 times a year by Modern Markets Intelligence, Inc. (MMI), publisher of independent trade news for the evolving energy industry of the 21st century. It is located in Rockville, Md. Sam Spencer founded MMI in 2009 after writing, editing, marketing, publishing, running and inventing trade news publications and related products for three decades.


Brett Brune
VP of Editorial
Modern Markets Intelligence, Inc.

Season Crawford
VP of Marketing
Modern Markets Intelligence, Inc.


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