Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

PGE launches smart grid test bed project

Steve Rogerson
July 24, 2019

Portland General Electric (PGE) has launched a smart grid test bed. The project aims to integrate smart grid technology to create a clean energy future by partnering with customers in entirely new ways to decarbonise the grid.
"We're using our smart grid test bed to deliver simple, seamless solutions and working with customers to drive carbon out of our system," said Maria Pope, president and CEO of PGE. "We're determined to meet our shared climate and equity goals."
The test bed spans three distinct neighbourhoods within its service area. Through the test bed, the company is preparing more than 20,000 of its customers to take advantage of special demand-response signals as well as incentives for using smart-home technologies, giving them more control over their energy use and carbon footprint.
With this pilot, PGE is building the roadmap to a virtual power plant – one powered by customer devices and behaviour rather than traditional generation – that will help address climate change, empower communities in how they consume energy and create a more resilient power system, all while saving its customers money.
The utility wants to make this a seamless experience for its customers by helping them automate their smart devices, such as thermostats, water heaters, electric vehicle chargers and batteries, to work in concert with PGE as it operates the grid. During times when demand for electricity is especially high in the region, they will be able to decide on an event-by-event basis if they want to participate in reducing or shifting their energy consumption.
Additionally, the entire region will benefit as PGE integrates even more renewable energy resources into its power supply without compromising grid safety, security or reliability.
Earlier this month, residents in the test bed neighbourhoods were automatically enrolled into PGE's peak time rebates, a demand-response programme that rewards customers for shifting their energy use during times when temperatures are particularly hot or cold.
Auto-enrolment will help PGE achieve its target participation rate of at least 66%, about ten times the national average for similar programmes. This will provide insight into customer interactions with the programmes and opportunities to demonstrate the benefits of adopting smart grid technologies at an unprecedented scale. PGE will share these learnings broadly for the benefit of the entire energy community.
Throughout this multi-year pilot, PGE will offer different programmes and incentives to understand how best to partner with all types of customers, and how to provide more equitable offerings. The pilot will explore topics including:

  • Structuring programmes that best fit varying customer needs.
  • Automating programmes so they're convenient for customers.
  • Working with partners on future offerings.
PGE will leverage communications capabilities and distribution system upgrades within three Oregon cities – Hillsboro, Portland and Milwaukie. Three substations in these cities will also be equipped with other smart grid technologies such as new remote controls that increase system reliability and enhanced safety and cyber security.
"PGE's leadership in reducing energy consumption aligns perfectly with our community's sustainability goals,” said Steve Callaway, mayor of Hillsboro. “This visionary project at the Roseway substation serving the south Hillsboro neighbourhood will also aid our smart city strategy by leveraging innovation and technology for our daily lives. Residents and businesses can make the most of smart thermostats, water heaters and appliances, rooftop solar energy generation, electric vehicles, and energy storage."
The test bed will accelerate the development of distributed resources, which include: customer-hosted renewables such as rooftop solar; flexible resources such as batteries, thermostats and water heaters; and electric vehicle charging.
"The urgency of rolling out cutting-edge technology that aims for a carbon free near-future is critical,” said Mark Gamba, mayor of Milwaukie. “Milwaukie looks forward to exploring how this technology not only moves us towards our goal of being a net zero city by 2040, but creates resiliency in the face of more and more violent storms. We are thrilled with the visionary attitude that our partner PGE has embraced."
The project was conceived and is being overseen by energy regulators in Oregon. To accelerate the concept, PGE developed the pilot with guidance from sustainability consultant Rocky Mountain Institute. The project is being steered by an advisory committee of local and national subject matter experts from the public and private sectors.
"Partnership and collaboration with Portland General Electric is a critical part of our efforts to combat climate change and to make our electricity grid and neighbourhoods more resilient, liveable and efficient,” said Ted Wheeler, mayor of Portland. “The city of Portland is excited to learn about smart grid implementation alongside PGE in this important pilot programme."
Portland General Electric is an integrated energy company based in Portland, Oregon, serving approximately 887,000 users in 51 cities. For 130 years, it has been delivering energy to Oregonians and has around 3000 employees across the state.
Portland General Electric has presented a new integrated resource plan to the Oregon Public Utility Commission for approval. The plan focuses on adding more renewable power, capturing more energy efficiency, and strengthening partnerships with customers to help balance energy supply and demand during periods of peak energy use.