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Smart grid enabling innovation in Arizona

By Donna Donnawitz
September 4, 2012
For Sun Belt utilities, a major power provider in Arizona, renewable energy resources, particularly distributable energy and solar panels, are a bittersweet technology. In a region where sunlight is such a prevalent resource, a growing number of consumers are turning to solar panels to work off of the grid as much as possible. When this happens, households still need the traditional grid at night and when it is cloudy. To maintain this availability, the utility company has to spend almost as it does normally. As a result, smart grid is becoming an important solution to deal with cost issues, EnergyBiz reported.

Because maintaining a grid that is only used during specific times still costs almost as much as supporting one that is always on, consumers have to pay much higher rates for energy during the periods when they are tapping into the utility department. Over time, this creates a situation in which a small subset of users ends up spending high fees for part-time power services, a circumstance that is unsustainable, the news source explained.

This problem exists in Arizona, where efforts to improve sustainability are going well. But state-sponsored initiatives for even more solar and distributed renewable energy use will take energy efficiency to another level moving forward. This creates major problems for utility vendors that have to maintain the grid, but do so with a much less effective fiscal model. To resolve this, Sun Belt began seeking a more creative way to handle energy distribution, generation and pricing. In time, the utility began experimenting with smart grid and found the technology provides exactly what it needs to operate more effectively and develop much better pricing and energy delivery models, allowing the utility organization to better support consumer efforts to use renewable energy.

The news source said collaborative efforts from a variety of utility providers within Arizona have created confidence in smart grid as the technology that provides the grid improvements needed to bring about a future built around much cleaner and high-tech energy distribution system.

Smart grid enables better use of power resources by keeping utility companies informed of real-time operating conditions within the grid. This information, over time, can also be used to predict how much power will be needed at any time. As a result, utility companies can order power from generation sites much more precisely, leading to considerable cost and efficiency gains for service providers and consumers alike.

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