AEP Ohio, an American Electric Power company, recently submitted its grid modernization expansion plan with the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) to bring advanced smart grid technologies including smart meters, customer access to real-time energy usage data, and distribution system reliability enhancements throughout its service territory. If approved, this plan will provide the benefits of advanced grid technology to all AEP Ohio customers.
AEP Ohio plans to invest $700 million over the next 10 years in smart grid equipment in the rural areas of its service territory during phase 3 of its smart grid program. This expansion will ensure that all AEP Ohio customers are benefiting from smart grid technologies. The average residential customer using 1,000-kilowatt hours of electricity per month would see an average increase of $1.16 per month over the first five years of the plan.
“The first two phases of our smart grid rollout have allowed us to make the energy system smarter and more efficient, while giving our customers more control over their energy use,” said Raja Sundararajan, AEP Ohio president and chief operating officer. “AEP Ohio is now looking to bring the benefits of these technologies and a more reliable, smarter grid to all of our customers.”
Under this plan, AEP Ohio will install approximately 475,000 additional smart meters across the state. More than 900,000 smart meters have already been installed under phases 1 and 2 of the smart grid program. Smart meters provide many benefits to customers, including detailed energy usage information and the ability to detect and report outage information to AEP Ohio so crews can restore power faster.
Additionally, AEP Ohio will upgrade nearly 600 circuits on its distribution system to include advanced automation and control equipment designed to reduce the length of power outages. This equipment provides crews with information about the location of the outage cause and can be operated remotely, reducing the amount of time it takes to make repairs while improving employee and public safety. Prior smart grid technology deployments in AEP Ohio have improved safety for company employees; achieved operational efficiencies through real-time information and remote operations; and enabled faster restoration times for sustained outages, resulting in the reduction of more than 20 million customer outage minutes and improved customer satisfaction.
The plan also includes the installation of other smart grid technology that has been installed during previous phases. These include Volt Var Optimization, which automatically monitors and controls the voltage levels on a distribution circuit, reducing customers’ energy consumption on that circuit without any action required by the customer.
AEP Ohio has proposed to expand its existing data network. Much of the territory in which the phase 3 technology will be installed lacks a communication network capable of allowing full utilization of these technologies. AEP Ohio proposes to offer third-party providers the ability to tap into this communication network to make broadband internet available in rural areas that currently lack access. Allowing internet providers to access this network will lower the cost of the needed investments while facilitating the expansion of smart grid technologies and internet access to underserved areas.