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SMUD’s smart grid now has real-time statistics for customers


From the April 22, 2013 issue of Public Power Daily

Originally published April 22, 2013

By Fallon Forbush
Communications Assistant
Customers of Sacramento Municipal Utility District in California can track their energy usage in real time, with help from their local library. 

Through its smart meter program, SMUD already offered residential customers a summary of historical data beginning with the previous day, said Jim Parks, manager of SMUD’s SmartSacramento project. But now SMUD customers can borrow "EnergyAware" electricity devices from the Sacramento Public Library to use with their smart meters.

The device talks wirelessly to a customer’s smart meter and displays electricity use in dollars and cents in real time and cumulatively, helping customers track energy usage and make immediate changes to reduce costs, the utility said.

SMUD also offers the EnergyAware device to customers who request one on smud.org.

SMUD customers have been plugged into the smart grid for a year, ever since the utility completed a two-and-a-half-year smart meter deployment program, in April 2012. The SMUD smart grid is comprised of 620,000 interconnected smart meters installed on customers’ homes and businesses.

"Smart meters are the backbone of the smart grid and they provide customers with two-way communication, allowing them to make many of their own energy choices," the utility said. "Knowledge is power, and knowing how much power is being used allows customers to tailor energy use to their own needs, saving money and minimizing their impact on the local environment."
 
The utility began its upgrade in the midst of a "very negative news media storm very close to the San Francisco Bay area," the utility said. "We mitigated the risk by educating the customers and communicating in a transparent fashion. We knew this would be the best way to deliver a high level of customer satisfaction." 

SMUD ensured that each customer knew when the meter would be installed. The utility communicated in easy-to-understand literature in six languages that explained the process and the benefits. Customers were also provided 14-day notices about installations with the option to schedule installation appointments within a one-hour window.

SMUD was awarded $127.5 million from the U.S. Department of Energy to help fund the meter installations. The utility installed as many as 65,000 meters per month to achieve its goal of 100 percent meter deployment by 2012 while maintaining a 93 percent customer satisfaction rating.

The SmartSacramento project totaled $307.7 million for labor and equipment costs, but the utility expects a simple payback in approximately nine years, said Parks. The utility expects to save $8 million to $15 million annually.

Approximately 80 percent of the savings is comprised of labor savings on meter reading and service disconnections, reduced meter maintenance and manual bill processing, said Parks.

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Senior Vice President, Publishing 
Jeanne Wickline LaBella
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JLaBella@publicpower.org

Editorial Director
Robert Varela
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Editor, Public Power Daily
Jeannine Anderson
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Communications Assistant
Fallon W. Forbush
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