Across the US, large utilities like investor-owned Pacific Gas & Electric and municipally operated Austin Energy have been working for several years to roll out smarter energy metering and advanced technologies designed to bring electricity services and operations into the 21st century.
Smaller community utility providers, on the other hand, can find it harder to deploy all the resources, money and manpower needed. But now, with the growing availability of cloud-based services for ever-more uses, many are finding ways to make the transition from a “dumb grid” to a smart one.
The cloud lets utilities and other users buy just the computing services and support they need. As their demands change over time, those services are quickly and easily ratcheted up or down to adjust.
The Florida city of Leesburg, population about 20,000, for example, has just decided to launch GE’s GridIQ Solutions as a Service to automate more of its electricity services, better manage demand during peak hours and provide customers with online data about their usage and bills. While Leesburg will remain in charge of its utility operations and own all the data generated by smarter technologies, GE will take care of managing and maintaining the data center applications behind them all.
Combined with the city’s smart meters, the service will wirelessly transmit metering data from homes to the utility, provide a way to manage the vast amounts of data that will be coming in and work to optimize demand response, which helps adjust consumption to balance with supplies during peak hours.
The Georgia city of Norcross, with some 9,000 residents, is taking a similar route, going into the cloud with GE’s help to better measure and manage its energy services. The move makes Norcross the “first community-owned utility in Georgia to deploy technologies that bring the promise of active energy management to life for our residents,” said Mayor Bucky Johnson.
Smaller and mid-sized utilities face “the same challenges as the rest of the world with rising costs, an aging infrastructure and environmental concerns,” said Mike Carlson, general manager of smart-grid solutions for GE Digital Energy. A cloud-based, solutions-as-a-service approach, he added, “can help them solve these challenges efficiently and quickly.”