Smart-grid technology has the ability to turn the electrical power grid into the most efficient supply system in the world, and it’s right in Westchester’s grasp. Through a coalition called the Northern Westchester Energy Action Consortium (NWEAC), the municipalities of Peekskill, Mount Kisco, and Bedford are all involved in trying to get smart-grid technology, which monitors both electricity production and consumption.
“Currently, we have a ‘dumb’ grid because the information only comes one way,” says Leo Wiegman, mayor of Croton and executive vice president of Croton Energy Group. That one-way flow is directed solely to the consumer, Wiegman notes, with none of the information flowing back to the utility companies.
So, instead of meters on each home that average out energy consumption for a month (which do not always produce an accurate measure of personal consumption), smart-grid technology would allow for one sophisticated meter on each distribution line (up to 2,000 homes) to track energy usage by the minute. The benefit? Energy companies can use the info to control how much energy they send out and avoid brownouts and surges.
Smart grids could actually move money into consumers’ pockets, too, according to Mike Gordon of NWEAC and CEO of Joule Assets Inc., an energy efficiency firm. Implementing smart-grid technology would allow power producers to give customers bonuses for cutting their usage during peak times that strain power plants in very expensive ways.
“That’s called demand response, and it’s a really solid business,” Gordon says. A consumer who is willing to cut down a kilowatt at any time on two hours’ notice—most likely through a smart-phone app—will earn about $30 in Westchester, he maintains. If consumers can cut back on 10 minutes’ notice, they will earn an extra $90 per year.
Gordon says the system would create an opportunity for Westchester residents to earn upwards of $20 million annually. Compare that figure with the $2 million cost to implement a smart grid across Westchester.
The NWEAC has already received permission from ConEd to build a pilot meter for one of their distribution lines in Peekskill but is currently waiting on funding to build the meter, which would cost $60,000 to install. “If we got the funding for the pilot, it could be up and running in twelve to eighteen months,” Wiegman says.He adds that, alternately, if ConEd were to give the consortium permission to attach meters (which the NWEAC would buy independently at market price) to their distribution sites/transformers, the equipment could be installed “overnight” for less than half the projected current price of $60,000. However, he says, ConEd “doesn’t want to hear it.”