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Effects of Storm Jonas on Utilities

Storm Jonas

From January 22, 2016 to January 24, 2016, the Mid-Atlantic through the Northeast regions of the United States were hit hard with a major blizzard, called Storm Jonas, which affected approximately 103 million people.  It took many by surprise after having a relatively warm winter. In its aftermath, some states saw up to three feet of snow.

Governors of eleven states declared a state of emergency and the National Guard was deployed and distributed road salt throughout the affected areas. Utility companies were faced with the responsibility of getting their customers up and running as quickly as possible.

Con Edison pro-actively helped their customers to avert more than 1,000 power outages during the Blizzard due to one billion dollar upgrades it had performed to its infrastructure over the past three years. Specifically, Con Edison observed that more than 1,000 customers in Brooklyn and Queens would have experienced outages if not for new equipment installed along overhead wiring, streamlined to make the system more durable, thus preventing outages. These improvements helped Con Edison address other outages. More than 4,500 storm related power outages occurred. Con Edison’s crews were able to respond quickly to restore power in the heaviest hit areas and by Monday when the storm ended all customers were backed up.

Con Edison’s mobile solutions also helped customers manage their accounts, report and check the status of an outage and learn energy-saving tips, thereby helping them be able to contact Con Edison quicker and minimize hazards.

Companies in warmer areas sent trucks to help with the affected area in a show of support. For example Tampa Electric sent about 250 workers to North Carolina to help Duke Energy in the Carolinas.

Although there was some damage, the actions of states working together with citizens and utility companies helped minimize the threats. State Governors set the tone for actions to be taken during the storm on a state level and were in contact with Utility companies.

For example, New Jersey State Governor Chris Christie’s representatives were on conference calls with the power companies and helped direct customers to utility resources. States of Emergency were called so that only essential vehicles could be on the road. The BPU, or New Jersey Board of Public Utilities, activated a storm cloud reporting system to help power companies track outages. This helped the utility companies provide a more rapid response in the face of the storm.

Duke Energy in North Carolina deployed about 3,200 line workers in the area to deal with the storm.

In Maryland, Baltimore Gas & Electric said about 12,000 customers had lost service, but the end of the storm power had returned nearly all. During the worst of the storm, 5,500 BG&E customers were without power.

Ultimately, Storm Jonas greatly affected the utilities on the East Coast. Luckily, state officials were able to predict it and declare a state of emergency ahead of time. Con Edison’s technology also helped lessen the effects of the storm. For other utilities however, there was still damage, and numerous individuals still lost their power.

 

Sources:

http://www.utilitydive.com/news/east-coast-utilities-prepare-for-potentially-crippling-winter-storm/412534/

http://www.state.nj.us/governor/news/news/552016/approved/20160122b.html

http://www.utilitydive.com/news/east-coast-utilities-dodged-a-bullet-with-winter-storm-jonas/412724/

Reinventing the Electric Utility in New York

Energy Distribution 1

A new system for overseeing energy distribution is gaining traction in New York.  The goal of the New York Public Service Commission (PSC) through its proposal called Reforming the Energy Vision (REV), is to change the way NY’s electricity is procured, distributed and regulated to create a more efficient and powerful infrastructure.  As power outages become more frequent and severe weather increases, the need for change is evident.  The REV would complement central generation efficiently, reconfigure utility regulation, and yield resources to accommodate the rapidly increasing demand for energy.  As one of the three states that have fully self-contained electricity generation, transmission, and distribution, it is possible for New York to take part in the new and innovative way of generating, harboring, and distributing energy.

New York’s current central generation structure cannot keep up with the rate at which technology is developing and advancing. This makes its structure inadequate in the State’s efforts to keep up with an economy that is continuously technologically advancing. One of the main ways the improved structure will facilitate this notion, (while saving money and resources in the process), is by creating more efficiency with regard to peak demand. Peak demand happens when, on the hottest day of the summer for example, the use of central air systems and A/C units skyrocket.  During this time, an exponentially higher amount of electricity is needed to accommodate citizen’s efforts to keep cool. Though this accommodation is only temporary – a few days or so – consumers are spending hundreds of millions of dollars a year in order to consistently maintain the grid’s ability to handle these “rare” occasions. With the new structure, a consumer’s smart appliance will have the ability to communicate with both those of other consumers, and the utilities themselves. With this being said, a consumer’s A/C would be able to utilize this communication to dictate how much power it needs to take from utilities, as well as, signal to other appliances to use less energy. All of this while consumers that have partnered with utilities, share harvested energy from their rooftop solar panels in order to help fellow New Yorkers cope with heat wave. The energy that these consumers share will result in a lower cost for their energy consumption as a whole. This new system will provide New Yorkers the ability to be smarter about when, the amount, and how they use energy as well as the ability to create their own energy and reduce their costs all together.

Also with this new model, consumers will have greater access to energy resources as current utility providers within this infrastructure would serve a less controlling, yet still pivotal position as Distributed System Platform Providers (DSPP). In this way, they would act as the middle men between consumers and the bulk power systems, thus allowing consumers to be able to better manage the ins-and-outs of their own energy. Newly created markets, operational systems, and tariffs will both further regulate and create more opportunities and value within the utility system.

The main questions that arise within this plan are related to the different variables of energy that would be produced and the technologies needed to support them. If these new energies vary too extensively or are not completely reliable/consistent within the electrical grid, this system could produce more headaches than smiles. Consolidated Edison (ConEd) is also reported saying that location will play a substantial part in the possibility of value within this system. Within highly congested areas, DSPPs will likely expend more for distribution, storage, and demand response.

With this new way of energy distribution, companies will be encouraged to base their rates on projected activities and demand of the future rather than on the previous year’s investments – which most do now. This enables them to not only include the effects of new technologies and advancements in their rate-making for the future, but also to look ahead at these advancements and re-align the way they invest in their future and consumers.

The process of considering this new way of energy generation and distribution is under way as the PSC has already begun to map out the ways in which it can be implemented. There is still much to be done such as realignment of distribution, determining supporting technologies, and implementing incentives for current electricity providers.  However, with PSC’s plan, a new parallel between consumer preference and utility business models will emerge.  Consumers will gain more authority within their electrical utility, and a more efficient and flexible structure crafted to embrace technological advancements of the future.

How Patterns of Energy Consumption Have Changed in the U.S.

Energy-Consumption-Patterns

There is no doubt that the use of energy in America has changed drastically through our history which can be attributed to the new sources introduced.  The chart below from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), demonstrates how our energy sources have changed over time.  Beginning with wood as the sole primary energy source, we evolved to hydroelectric power (flowing water that creates energy and turns it into electricity – like that of a water mill), then coal, and now petroleum products lead the way.

From this chart we can see that coal has been a steady resource for our country.  It seems to drop when other sources surface – such as oil and natural-gas – but tends to always make a come-back.  This may be due to the fact of it being cheap, and the numerous ways in which coal can be used.

The EIA states, “Since the mid-20th century, the use of coal has again increased (mainly as a primary energy source for electric power generation), and a new form of energy—nuclear electric power—emerged.  While the overall energy history of the United States is one of significant change as new forms of energy were developed, the three major fossil fuels—petroleum, natural gas, and coal, which together provided 87% of total U.S. primary energy over the past decade—have dominated the U.S. fuel mix for well over 100 years.”

Renewable energy – such as wind and solar power – are increasing.  However, based on this chart of historical energy consumption in the U.S., that does not at all mean the use of other sources will decrease in its’ place.  In fact, the EIA predicts that in 2040, 75% of U.S. energy will still come from oil, coal, and natural gas.

Energy Production Increase Proves Positive

Energy production in the United States has changed quite a bit over the last 20 years, and what is most compelling is that it has grown in almost every field – demonstrating a strong and growing energy economy.

According to Energy.gov, U.S. energy production has increased by 16% between 1993 and 2012, which they illustrate in their graph below.  The unit of energy used is called quads (quadrillion BTU).  Some common equivalents to 1 quad are 8,007,000,000 gallons (US) of gasoline, 293,083,000,000 kilowatt-hours (kWh), and/or 970,434,000,000 cubic feet of natural gas.

Energy-Production-Increase

Energy.gov does not have total data from the past two years, but recognizes that nuclear energy has grown steadily, while other types of energy have experienced volatile production year-to-year, such as coal and renewable energy.  Virtually non-existent biofuels in 1993 have grown from 0.17 to 1.8 quads and natural gas has increased by 33% from 2005-2012 alone.

The increased production of energy means good things for American families and small businesses as it creates more jobs, lowers costs, and reduces our dependence on foreign countries.  The House Committee on Natural Resources note that for every penny the price of gasoline increases, it costs consumers an additional $4 million per day ($1.4 billion over an entire year).  This is prevented by the United States producing its own energy resources – oil, natural gas, coal and nuclear, as well as alternative sources such as wind, solar, hydropower and geothermal.  With that, the proof is in the numbers that we are on the right track to doing so.