Smart Grid

October 02, 2012

PG&E Report: Smarter Grid Creates More Satisfied Customers

Customers are enjoying greater reliability and lower electricity costs as a result of the progress that Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E (News - Alert)) has made on its smart grid plan, according to a report provided by the San Francisco-based utility to state regulators on October 1.

PG&E serves 15 million people in Northern and Central California.

The report covers new and ongoing efforts – including the integration of advanced communications, computing, sensors and control technology – to modernize the electric infrastructure, based on the utility's Smart Grid Deployment Plan, originally submitted to the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) in June 2011.

The annual report provides updates on the rollout of PG&E’s:

  • Outage detection program, which can monitor individual meters to determine whether power has been restored during a blackout
  • Intelligent circuits, located in Fresno and Bakersfield, which help improve system-wide electric system reliability and significantly reduce the average length of an outage
  • High-tech monitoring equipment on the transmission system, which provides early warning of potential problems, so that grid operators can take corrective action before widespread outages occur

"We've made progress in the last year making the electric grid that powers our homes and businesses more intelligent," said PG&E Smart Grid senior director, Kevin Dasso. "This report shows our clear focus on safety, reliability and affordability; as well as on ensuring that projects deliver key customer benefits."

Green Button Connect 

Continuing progress on new smart grid benefits, PG&E released Green Button Connect this week. Green Button was launched last fall as a way for customers to easily and securely download their energy data and send it to a third-party app developer or use the data themselves to track their usage.

PG&E is now testing Green Button Connect, aiming to give customers even greater control over their energy use by offering a simple, one-time authorization to automate the secure hand-off of the customer's energy data to the third-party energy app developer of their choosing. Previously, a customer would have to repeatedly download his or her electric usage and manually send it to a third-party app developer, but now the process can be automated.

The release of Green Button Connect created excitement in the developer community, drawing new apps from startups like PEV4Me, Leafully and Unplug Stuff – all of which have products that customers with electric smart meters can access now.

PG&E customers can download data on their energy usage with the click of a button

"We want it to be really easy and quick for customers to manage their energy use," said PG&E senior vice president and chief information officer, Karen Austin. "It should take a minute to securely share your data with a solar panel installation company – not 10 minutes."

In the future, part of PG&E's plan will be to facilitate new customer energy management capabilities. Different pricing programs will be introduced to give customers the opportunity to shift their energy usage to times of the day when prices are lower.

PG&E's smart grid projects also will support more widespread customer adoption of rooftop solar, as well as smart charging programs that encourage the use of zero-emission electric vehicles, while helping protect the safety and reliability of the energy grid. 

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Edited by Braden Becker