T&D World Magazine

Solving the Smart Grid Business Case Problem: New Software Provides Comprehensive Utility-Level Analysis

The Smart Grid Research Consortium today announced the successful completion of its two-year software development project with the formal release of the Smart Grid Investment Model. The project included original Excel/C++ software development and model applications for fifteen utilities. Smart grid investment options range from the substation to customer technologies and programs as well as IT and other infrastructure areas.

The Smart Grid Investment Model software is now available for application at all electric utilities as either a stand-alone software application or with varying levels of Consortium staff support. Additional information is provided at: http://www.smartgridresearchconsortium.org/

"Our objective was to incorporate all important technical aspects of smart grid investments in a software package that provides intuitive, meaningful bottom line results for utility decision-makers," said Dr. Jerry Jackson, Consortium leader and research director.

"We also found that model analysis helps vendors make the business case for their technologies as a result of the more comprehensive cost/benefit analysis framework that recognizes interactions and synergies."

The investment model includes options that have been the most difficult to quantify in the past. For example, financial benefits of DA (distribution automation) and Volt/VAR control are determined in the model by reductions in peak kW, kWh, line losses, reduced field services, avoided future investments and other factors. The model allows users to include or exclude any of these factors to gain a quick, intuitive understanding of the financial contributions in each area. If optional feeder-level detail is included in the analysis, distribution engineers can identify the most cost effective strategy for upgrading the distribution system over time.

The vendor-neutral, objective, Smart Grid Investment Model overcomes limitations of existing utility business case software. For example, the model:

  • Recognizes current utility metering, communications, IT, and other infrastructure
  • Provides utility-specific customer-class, end-use hourly load impact analysis
  • Evaluates avoided power costs and capacity investments
  • Includes all important distribution system investment areas
  • Incorporates detailed distribution architecture information
  • Recognizes often overlooked costs such as management reengineering costs and reliability valuations
  • Includes electric, water and gas systems and non-utility benefits
  • Permits individual technology and program selection and combination strategies
  • Presents results in an Excel "dashboard" worksheet for intuitive program evaluation
  • Provides summary and detailed financial statistics, tables and charts
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