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Envision the consumer-to-grid connection.

When it comes to new directions in market-wide consumer energy use decisions and choices, change doesn’t come easy. The smart grid evolution is poised to change the “consumer-to-grid” dynamic. But how – and how quickly – will customers respond and adapt? A smart energy demonstration center is helping make the C2G connection.

Smart grid technology – among others – is redefining how consumers and their electric utilities interact with each other. Empowered with two-way digital communications, consumers will be connected to the grid in new, more dynamic ways. When fully implemented, the smart grid will better enable customers to make sustainable energy use choices and manage their utility costs – all while supporting a more reliable distribution system and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Reducing the demand for electricity and avoiding potential new carbon sources will primarily be achieved by increasing consumer’s access to energy consumption data, increasing their options for dynamic and real-time pricing plans, improving their knowledge of energy management practices, providing tools to trade their own generated energy, and providing more direct monitoring and control of appliances and energy loads.

However, these changes will not come easily. With an eye on achieving broad-based consumer acceptance, advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) and home area networking (HAN) – combined with simple, intuitive user interfaces – can enable consumers to better understand their electricity consumption patterns, manage their energy costs, and motivate lifestyle and personal changes. But beyond the technology, the consumer needs to see a value in how their individual behavior impacts the value chain of electric – and gas – delivery.

The question today is how will customers respond to the emerging smart grid? How quickly will they adopt smart grid enabled home energy technologies? Will they open their homes and businesses to new smart energy offerings? Do they see the personal benefits and value of a smart grid?

Bridging the consumer-to-grid gap
A smart grid system can enable more effective application of dynamic pricing, demand response, and energy reduction programs, resulting in lower energy costs and more environmentally efficient and reliable operations. Consumers need to better understand that there are both efficient and inefficient ways of consuming electricity – and that many of the inefficiencies impact both economics and the environment. Ultimately, this translates to a cost to the consumer.

KEMA’s Rob Wilhite has been working with Duke Energy on various aspects of the utility’s future vision, including the consumer connection. KEMA has worked with Duke Energy in creating the Duke Energy Envision Center. “The Center is designed to help educate consumers, regulators, policy-makers and other stakeholders on the choices and benefits of a smart energy future,” says Wilhite. “Duke’s view of the smart grid encompasses both electricity and gas. This is one of the first interactive exhibits to demonstrate smart grid, renewable, and energy efficient technologies for gas and electricity. The center offers utility executives, key industry stakeholders, and policy makers an opportunity to experience how a modernized smart grid can work and what benefits it can provide for them.”

Located in the Cincinnati region, the center features a movie-style studio with sets consisting of substations with two-way, digital technology, a ‘smart’ home – complete with solar panels and a plug-in hybrid vehicle, an apartment complex with ‘smart meters,’ and a power delivery work center – monitoring conditions with real-time data. Utility poles equipped with ‘intelligent’ power equipment are also staged throughout.

“The Envision Center helps visualize and build the business case for the smart grid future,” says Wilhite. “Video and simulation-enhanced demonstrations show how energy efficiency can be automatic and how seamless the transition for customer adoption can be. They show how utilities will more effectively pinpoint outages and restore power more quickly. Smart home simulations feature the use of an energy management system to control high efficiency appliances, as well as an electric vehicle and back-up energy supply. And the center promotes the importance of renewable power and the important role consumers can play in helping to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

Utility executives, government and regulatory officials and other stakeholders worldwide are invited to tour the center for a hands-on experience of the emerging smart energy future. Each tour is a unique experience and crafted to meet specific expectations.

Jim Francis, Director of Technical Services, Vectren Energy Delivery was one of the first utility professionals to tour the Envision Center. “From a utility viewpoint it’s easy to understand how all the components of smart grid technology can work together. What is hard to visualize is what all this means for the consumer, especially how they might interact with the smart grid and how utilities would explain it to customers. The Duke Energy Envision Center brings this vision to life, helps us understand what the customers may experience, and makes it easier to see how we can help customers adapt to smart grid technology.”

Learn more about the Envision Center: www.kema.com/SmartEnergyCenter.

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