Friday, November 6, 2009

MLGW scales back 'smart grid' project

From today's Commercial Appeal...

MLGW scales back 'smart grid' project

Memphis Light, Gas and Water Division plans to implement a scaled-down version of its "smart grid" project, now that it's clear that the utility will get less federal grant money than it had hoped for.

Instead of installing sophisticated energy meters for 70,000 business and residential customers throughout six local ZIP codes, the utility will offer 1,000 in-home metering devices to volunteers at sites to be determined, said Laura Campbell, MLGW's assistant manager of energy resources.

"Our customers use 40 percent more electricity than the national average," Campbell said. "We as a community have a great opportunity to learn more about how we use energy and use energy more wisely."

The in-home monitors would give people rapid feedback about how much energy they're using.

The utility also plans to put in place switching devices that are meant to reduce the size of power outages, as well as new equipment to help watch the functioning of the electric grid in the medical center district and Downtown.

The new measures should be in place by the end of 2010, Campbell said.

The federal government is pouring huge sums of money into infrastructure projects meant to bring old utility equipment into the modern age. Current utility equipment is based on decades-old technology that relies on analog techniques, such as hiring people to read meters.

MLGW recently received a $5 million grant to upgrade the grid in its medical center district and Downtown.

But the federal government also announced that it wouldn't be giving out a pool of money that MLGW had planned to apply for.

"They canceled it before it even got to the date to turn in the proposal," Campbell said.

As a result, MLGW is scaling down its 2010 budget for smart-grid projects which had anticipated spending $13.8 million for the project, with $6.8 million reimbursed by the federal government.

Now the utility plans to spend $6.3 million, with $1.9 million reimbursed by the federal government, said controller Dana Jeanes.

-- Daniel Connolly: 529-5296

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