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To be most effective, these new technologies also give you the tools to monitor and control your own energy use. From their inception in the s, electric cooperatives have been problem solvers. The problems of the 21st century require action that will assure all of us have the electricity we need in the future. Today, according to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, electric co-ops across the country lead the industry in the deployment of smart meter infrastructure with an advanced metering penetration of In , before the idea of a smart grid was popularized, the Crockett-based co-op recognized that meters with two-way communication capabilities could significantly improve efficiencies and reliability.
Instead, members used to report their own meter readings, with periodic follow-up checks by contract workers. Now that the smart meters send usage data directly to the co-op, revenue losses from inaccurate readings and instances of electricity theft have been virtually eliminated. In a part of the state often hit hard by hurricanes, an even more important advantage of AMI is realized during massive weather-related outages. Prior to the days of AMI, members had to call in their outages to be tracked by the co-op and added to a list for power restoration.
But likely as not, the phone lines went down along with the utility poles. With no phone service, members still without lights after power was restored in some segments had no way of notifying the co-op. The service trucks would have already pulled out, with officials thinking everyone was back up. Outages detected by the meters likewise were pinpointed on service area maps. Carleen Brister, a dispatcher who has been with Houston County EC more than 12 years, says smart meters made all the difference in managing the aftermath of the hurricane.
Her plans for the future include researching technology for digitally controlling system inventory. Dick Earnest is one of about a dozen Bandera EC members who serve on the committee.
Earnest, a congenial retired marketing manager from an investor-owned utility, admits he is somewhat of an energy-consumption nerd. In fact, he installed his own meter to monitor monthly electricity use by his water heater.
With time-of-use rates, electricity used during the peak hours costs more than that used very late at night through the wee hours of the morning. This type of rate structure is possible only when the co-op and member can see usage in minute intervals, one function of smart meters.
From their desks, they can determine whether there is an outage before they send a crew out in the field. Anticipating a future in which increasing numbers of members will want to produce at least some of their own electricity, the co-op has installed a solar, or photovoltaic PV , panel in front of its Bandera office so members can see a renewable system in action.
Just north of Dallas, Corinth-based CoServ Electric serves more than , members across a diverse area of ranches, farmland and suburbs. Department of Energy grant to support deployment of advanced metering and electric distribution technologies.
To get the most out of the new, sophisticated operating and monitoring systems, the co-op has engaged in a robust educational effort for employees and members. With all that information zipping around in cyberspace, some have raised security and privacy concerns. Should someone try to inject information into the data stream, the system will recognize that it is not from an authorized source, not accept the information into the system, and alert CoServ of the situation.
Increasing numbers of CoServ members are investigating individual measures for offsetting energy costs, such as installing PV panels. CoServ recognizes its responsibility to partner with members in reducing costs through using technology that puts them in control of reducing their usage.
Ray Beavers saw it coming. After a long period of rate stability, how would members react to increasing costs? Today, Beavers is nationally recognized as a co-op leader in energy efficiency education and a thoughtful analyst of the benefits of new technology. Department of Energy to participate in an energy efficiency pilot, the Home Energy Score program, to measure the effectiveness of certain energy-efficiency practices.
How can we prepare them for inevitable cost increases? What can we do? Energy innovation, Beavers says, will bridge the old supply-side dynamic to a new demand-side model encompassing energy conservation, distributed generation, energy efficiency and demand response. What about the role of technology and the promise of a smart grid? UCS already has smart meters in place systemwide and has had them for seven years.
That takes a lot of communication, working first on awareness, education, practice and behavioral changes. When that happens, technology will be useful. Walter and Brenda Engelmann enjoy sitting on the back porch of their hilltop home outside Seguin watching their two wind turbines make electricity. They delight in these 2. But more important to the Engelmanns—who purchased the turbines from their co-op, Guadalupe Valley Electric Cooperative GVEC in Gonzales—they are producing their own electricity from a renewable energy source.
I wish more people would do it. Each turbine is connected to a meter that reads the amount of electricity generated. On average, together the turbines produce kWh a month. The average home uses between 1, and 1, kWh a month, but the Engelmanns have reduced their total monthly consumption to around kWh by observing energy efficient practices in everything from the way their home was built to drying laundry outdoors.
The co-op is also investigating solar technology, with plans to sell and service PV systems if it finds a model that delivers up to its expectations. GVEC has been aggressive in promoting energy efficiency practices among its nearly 66, members. In December, the co-op began a yearlong pilot project in partnership with Consert, Inc.
This past fall, U. The smart grid will empower each member with timely information to enable an informed decision about energy use. Look on Facebook.
Subscribe to Twitter. Find it on YouTube. Go to its website and see just how much space the co-op is occupying beyond the borders of its service area.
When it comes to social networking, Mid-South Synergy has jumped in with both feet. Needing some ideas on how to lower your energy costs? Go to www. But we still want to know what they are thinking, and by using the tools of social media we can listen to what they are saying and share ways to help meet their needs. Social media is not simply another advertising channel for Mid-South. Members ask questions, comment on issues, and encourage the work of the cooperative.
The various social media channels are monitored so comments can be acknowledged and questions answered. Demand Response: System that responds to peak energy demand by automatically reducing electric consumption for short periods.
Participation in this energy-efficiency program by residential, commercial and industrial member-customers is voluntary. Two-way communication to electric meters provides for timely billing, load control, demand response, and outage detection and assessment.
Co-ops can effectively manage customer data and reduce costs. Time-of-Use or Real-Time Pricing: A method for pricing retail electricity based on wholesale cost at any given time. For example, during peak-load hours, costs are higher due to more demand. On the retail, or consumer level, this pricing structure is available only if the wholesale power provider breaks down cost by time of use for the distribution cooperative.
This helps in the efficient dispatch of equipment to problem sites and gets power restored more quickly. GPS—Global Positioning System: Allows dispatchers to locate workers and provide them with directions and instructions. In-vehicle GPS makes navigation a breeze. Using GIS, headquarters can pinpoint the location of every pole and the type of equipment on the pole. Enlarge 1 of 8. Pictured here: Lineman Brian Harwell. In order to educate them, we had to educate ourselves, so we decided to find what we believed was the best turbine on the market, train our service team to install and maintain them, and offer members a product they could trust.
Pictured: Walter and Brenda Engelmann enjoy watching their two wind turbines make electricity at their home outside Seguin. It has one of the most advanced distribution systems with smart grid technology in the nation in terms of saving money, increasing energy efficiency and creating a positive impact on the environment. When it comes to social networking—with the objective being to keep electric cooperative members informed and connected—Mid-South Synergy has jumped in with both feet.
Texas Helping Lead the Way Today, according to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, electric co-ops across the country lead the industry in the deployment of smart meter infrastructure with an advanced metering penetration of Want to learn the history of Mid-South Synergy?
Looking for updates on an outage? February This appeared in the February issue. My Co-op See more from your local electric co-op. Read more stories and recipes like this one at TexasCoopPower. Are you a co-op member?
Photo by Larry Ditto. The same ones they recommend to their patients! Robert A. Brian L. I placed them on my ears and — ay caramba! Can you believe that I did it again? I found them at the bottom of the washer… still working!
High-Tech Co-ops Changing Energy Realities