A Smart Grid is the seamless integration of many parts: an electric grid; a communications network; and hardware and software to monitor, control, and manage the creation, distribution, storage, and consumption of energy. The Smart Grid of the future will be distributed, interactive, self-healing, and capable of reaching every device.
A Smart Grid uses the latest technologies to increase energy dependability and customer service by:
- Managing supply and demand
- Controlling use
- Monitoring outages
It helps operators “see the system” in its entirety. It allows them to avert trouble spots and re-route power as necessary. If sections of the electric system approach overloading, the Smart Grid automatically redirects load to restore balance.
How does it work?
Austin Energy's "Smart Grid 1.0"
Austin Energy has been preparing our "Smart Grid 1.0" for several years. In addition to existing power sources and transmission lines, its building blocks include:
- A telecommunications network—combining fiber and wireless.
- Hardware—meters, sensors, network gear, computers, servers, and storage
- Software—applications, databases, and integration and management tools
Now Austin Energy’s Smart Grid is ready for primetime. It runs from power plant, through transmission and distribution systems, to the meter, and back. It:
- Encompasses 1 million consumers and 43,000 businesses
- Covers 440 square miles
- Includes 500,000 devices
- Involves 100 terabytes of data
A fully integrated Smart Grid is about helping us serve you better. It focuses on:
- Systems integration
- Safety and reliability
- Improved customer service
The future—Smart Grid 2.0
Austin Energy’s Smart Grid 2.0 is already in the works. We already manage 86,000 smart thermostats in homes and businesses, which at peak times can aggregate to about 90 MW of load. It will be interactive and “self-healing,” and will:
- Manage distributed generation—for example, solar photovoltaic and micro wind
- Build and manage energy storage
- Power and communicate with smart consumer appliances
- Charge plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles
Smart Grid 2.0 will offer improved customer services, including:
- By phone or online real-time meter reads
- Web-based management of smart consumer appliances
- Remote service turn-on and shut-off
For our customers, it will mean:
- Quicker outage restoration
- Greater convenience—no more unlocking gates and tying up dogs for meter reads
- Better control over how much energy you use and when you use it
- Timelier, clearer, and more accurate and easily managed bills
- Easier participation in energy efficiency programs
For Austin Energy and the City of Austin, Smart Grid 2.0 will mean:
- Improved operations and procurement—lower costs
- Less energy theft
- Better planning and management of load distribution
- Reduced need for extra generation and transmission capacity
The way forward
Austin Energy partners in the Pecan Street Project to help plan Smart Grid 2.0. The Project helps us define, test, and implement strategies to keep Austin at the forefront of clean technology innovation and job creation.