Building a smart energy future
These days technology is changing by the minute. Cell phones, computers, cars – and even technology used in the utility industry.
The hot topic these days is Smart Grid. Smart Grid involves the use of intelligent devices and systems to support more efficient and reliable delivery of electricity using digital technology. Smart Grid systems provide tools to help save energy, reduce costs and increase reliability.
Alliant Energy has already undertaken several Smart Grid-related initiatives and will continue to implement Smart Grid projects, when they are cost-effective and will enhance utility infrastructure. One of our most visible and extensive Smart Grid projects was the deployment of Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) smart metering technology throughout our Wisconsin Power and Light Company (WPL) service territory. We view AMI as a key part of our Smart Grid efforts.
Advantages of Smart Grid technologies
The four key drivers for Alliant Energy’s Smart Grid strategy are:
- Enabling active consumer participation in managing energy usage and costs through energy efficiency and demand response to shift peak loads.
- Improving the utility’s efficiency in customer service and billing activities, emergency response, and load management.
- Maintaining reliability of aging infrastructure and improving efficiency and capacity of the grid through enhanced asset management, monitoring, and self-healing capabilities.
- Preparing the grid for integration of renewable and distributed energy resources, such as from wind, solar, bio-gas, and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles.
Laying the Smart Grid foundation: Advanced Metering Infrastructure
In order to build a Smart Grid, we first had to lay the foundation for it. In late 2007 we began preparations to deploy AMI technology in our WPL service territory. That meant exchanging – or retrofitting – electric and natural gas meters throughout our WPL service territory with new AMI-enabled smart meters. By the end of 2010, we have exchanged and retrofitted more than 640,000 residential and small business meters. Our AMI efforts in our Interstate Power and Light Company (IPL) service territory are dependent on regulatory timing and support.
Wondering how AMI works or what the benefits of it are, or how it relates to Smart Grid? Keep reading to learn more.
How AMI works
Electric and natural gas meters are read remotely through communications towers. This usage information is then transmitted to Alliant Energy via a fixed radio frequency network where it is then used in our billing, customer service and outage management systems.
Benefits of AMI
- Reduces estimated bills and meter reading errors
- Reduces need to access customer property
- Ability to monitor energy theft
- Reduces miles driven resulting in less fuel consumption and lower vehicle emissions
- Online information to better manage your energy usage and costs
- New and improved rate options and programs
- Improves power outage identification and restoration response
Frequently asked Smart Grid questions
What is Smart Grid?
Smart Grid is the use of intelligent devices and systems to support more efficient and reliable delivery of electricity from suppliers to consumers using digital technology. Smart Grid systems provide tools to help save energy, reduce costs and increase reliability.
What is AMI?
Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) technology uses remote two-way wireless communication to retrieve customer energy usage information at frequent intervals from customers’ electric smart meters and/or natural gas meters via a Radio Frequency (RF) fixed network. A Meter Data Management System receives and houses the data for analysis and use by other systems such as customer information and billing, power outage management, load research, and delivery system planning.
How does AMI relate to Smart Grid?
For Alliant Energy, and most other utilities, AMI is considered to be the foundational building block for Smart Grid. Its two-way communication capabilities serve as a platform for enhanced customer engagement and tools to gain a better understanding of their energy usage, and for monitoring the performance and status of the electric delivery system. Our AMI system also provides a cost-effective communications path to enable deployment of equipment and devices that enhance reliability and efficient operation of the electric delivery system.
Why did Alliant Energy implement AMI technology?
AMI lays the groundwork for partnering with our customers to build a smarter energy future. This technology and the future opportunities it presents will empower customers by providing the insight and tools needed to better manage their own energy usage and create opportunities for long-term cost savings, while also creating operational efficiencies.
What type of information is being transmitted?
Only meter numbers, energy usage readings and diagnostic information are transmitted. Personal data is not transmitted so customer information will remain private and secure.
How secure is the information being sent from the customer’s meter to Alliant Energy?
The AMI communications system uses a multi-layered approach to securing data that makes the data very secure.
Are these new smart meters accurate?
Yes. All of our AMI meters are tested for accuracy at the factory, using calibrated reference standards that provide reproducible and verifiable results. While it’s not required, we also sample test shipments of meters received as a secondary check prior to approving meters for installation. We have had very few complaints regarding meter accuracy since we started our AMI deployment, and all have resulted in finding explanations that were unrelated to meter accuracy.
What frequency does the AMI technology use?
Our AMI system operates under a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) license and uses a portion of the 900 MHz radio frequency band separate from that commonly used by consumer products such as cordless telephones and garage door openers. Because of this, our AMI system will not cause interference problems with other wireless devices.
Are there any potential health concerns with the Radio Frequency (RF) signals?
Several studies have been done on low-power RF transmissions, but no negative health impacts have been found. The AMI system Alliant Energy deployed meets all applicable FCC requirements. AMI enabled electric and gas meters only transmit four to six times per day and use very short micro-second bursts of data when doing so. When compared to other common consumer wireless devices such as cordless or mobile phones, the output is substantially lower.