A plan to modernize the energy grid means more than replacing substations and transmission lines. It will help you control your electricity use and save you money.
About the only time most of us consider the energy grid is when there’s a major power outage or a blackout in some place like New York or California. That’s in the past. As time goes on, we’ll be interacting with the grid more and more. This grid modernization will give customers more tools to control how much energy they use, all from a connected device such as a smartphone.
That’s why Duke Energy is investing $25 billion over the next 10 years in its service areas, the South and Midwest, to replace the aging power grid infrastructure (such as transmission lines, transformers, substations). The project will add thousands of jobs, generate billions of dollars in wages and provide an economic boost for Duke Energy's communities.
Investor-owned energy companies spent $53 billion on the grid in 2016, and this year, 37 states and the District of Columbia are working on modernizing the grid, according to a report by North Carolina State University.
The goal is to make the system more secure and resilient, decrease outages and enable faster restoration, integrate more renewable energy such as solar and wind, and give customers more choice, convenience and control over their energy use.
But first, a little grid bio.
The grid has been around since Thomas Edison
We’ve relied on the grid since the 1880s, when Thomas Edison brought electricity to New York City. To light up New York, his company built power plants and substations to send electricity over wires and into brownstones and office buildings. Essentially, we’ve been using the same method ever since.
In the Edison plan, utilities make electricity and send it to you, the customer. It is a one-way system. That was just fine for more than a century. Back then, utility company customers weren’t installing rooftop solar panels or cooling down McMansions.
Time for a change?
Duke Energy’s plans will, among other things, give customers the ability to control more of how they interact with the energy company.
Customers in Indiana, Ohio and parts of the Carolinas have already been updated with smart meters. That technology allows them to get near real-time energy use information and adjust as needed to save money. They can pick the due date for their bill. And in some areas, they’re able to pay ahead of time for the amount of electricity they think they’ll need.
Let’s talk about infrastructure
Trees add to the landscape's beauty and provide many other benefits but they are also a main cause of power outages. Duke Energy plans to move thousands of miles of the most susceptible overhead lines underground.
The company will also make the grid safer from threats such as animals (who get into substations and transformers), hackers (who try to get into computers) and flooding (which can take some substations out of service).
The improvements are expected to reduce the number of power outages over the next 10 years by 50 percent.
That brings us back to today
Crews have already been installing smart meters at residences and businesses. You’ll see other work, too, updating substations and transmission lines, for example.
Thomas Edison, who died in 1931, advocated harnessing the power of the sun and wind, and today we have the technology to do that. The smart grid makes it easier and more efficient than Edison’s grid, which transformed life around the world.
Edison was a great inventor, and over the next 10 years a lot of work will be going on to bring his ideas into the digital universe.
What Duke Energy has planned
Here’s an overview of Duke Energy’s smarter energy future plans to improve the energy grid.
Burying power lines
Thousands of miles of hard-to-access overhead power lines will be moved underground. This will significantly reduce outages and interruptions and can speed restoration.
This includes substation and transmission line upgrades, flood mitigation, physical and cyber security.
Distribution system security
Transformers will get technology to prevent animal interference and lightning strikes, deteriorating cable will be replaced, physical and cyber security enhancements will protect against hackers and occurrences like animal intrusions and vandalism. This will help prevent outages, especially during storms, and provide faster restoration when outages occur.
Smart meters will be installed to enable automated meter reading, remote connects/disconnects and quicker outage detection.
New and replacement fiber, microwave and towers will be installed. Transmission and distribution line devices will be upgraded from 2G/3G to 4G LTE.