Each entity entailed with electric utility industries look up to increasingly flexible, automated, more reliable, more intelligent, and greener future of the power industry. A common belief that prevails in the energy landscape is digitalization and automation of grid which led to smart grids will help in achieving the greener future. Smart grids offer several benefits such as reliability, resilience, cost reduction, operational efficiency, and customer centricity. The smart grids were developed to overcome the drawbacks of traditional grids as they are capable to detect and respond to local environmental changes.
Several benefits that smart grids deliver are-
• It is able to accommodate all generations and storage options
• Enables active consumer participation
• Allows emergence of new products and service markets
• Provides power quality for the digital economy
• Optimizes asset utilization and efficiency in operations
• Anticipates and responds to system disruptions
• Able to operate resiliently against attack and natural calamities
After several years of R&D, these grids are developed to meet the industry’s requirements like response to major storms, infrastructure end of life necessity, and ever-evolving customer needs. But some stakeholders doubt whether the optimal smart grid investments are being pursued. Arguments raised are that smart grid investments must be validated by measurement to ensure that customers receive maximum economic benefits for their rates. While some other stakeholders believe that smart grid investment plans will not be optimal unless their desired results are achieved.
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Stakeholders who look to validate their investments must understand that major grid investments will under regulatory proceeding. Therefore, utility partners can document their investment plans as if they were to be the principal focus of the proceeding. Details related to option selection and exclusion must be as objective as possible and whenever feasible, supported by customer surveys. The greatest extent to achieve validation could be piloting the major system upgrades with appropriate measures to quantify operational outcomes such as cost and timelines.
The investment plan should be upfront to identify and resolve the source of any shortcomings during the program. It must be thoroughly peer-reviewed to benefit-cost study supporting selected system improvements. In a nutshell, utilities can validate smart grid investments through thoughtful investments and on-going performance, well-documented grid planning, and customer satisfaction response assessment.