Atlantic City Electric, in a filing submitted recently to the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (BPU), outlined its plans to build a Smart Energy Network across the company's entire service area, including installing smart meters and upgrading the local energy grid with specialized networking equipment.
These proposed upgrades will enhance the system's reliability and resiliency, improve customer service, and support new tools and programs to help customers save money and energy. The Smart Energy Network is seen as a critical step in the company's efforts to create a smarter energy infrastructure that can serve as a common platform, connecting customers and communities to smart technologies and new energy services.
"The Smart Energy Network is critical to connecting more customers to a variety of clean, reliable and affordable energy choices and helping New Jersey combat the effects of climate change," Gary Stockbridge, Atlantic City Electric region president, said. "A modern energy grid, with the Smart Energy Network as its backbone, will pave the way for more solar energy installations, more robust energy efficiency programs, more charging infrastructure for electric vehicles, and more resilient energy infrastructure to help restore service for our customers faster following increasingly common severe weather events."
The Smart Energy Network will allow Atlantic City Electric to safely restore power to customer homes and businesses in a faster and more efficient manner. In the event of a power outage, smart meters will alert the company and assist crews in identifying the cause and location of the outage. Using real-time data, Atlantic City Electric can better prioritize how to dispatch crews and plan restoration work, streamlining restoration efforts and restoring customers faster following major storms.
For example, during Tropical Storm Isaias, Atlantic City Electric had to rely on manually placing thousands of phone calls to confirm the status of a customer's service. This was often ineffective and, in many instances, led to dispatching restoration crews just to confirm that service had already been restored. In contrast, the team managing the Isaias storm response at Atlantic City Electric's sister company, Delmarva Power, whose customers have smart meters, could see customer outages in real time. By remotely "pinging" the meter to determine whether a meter was on or not, Delmarva Power could accurately identify outages and efficiently dispatch restoration crews.
"Tropical Storm Isaias served as another reminder of the significant damage storms can cause in coastal and inland communities," Marty Pagliughi, director, Cape May County Office of Emergency Management, said. "While Atlantic City Electric was in constant communication during Isaias and provided prompt and safe restoration for residents, the storm served as yet one more example of the need for New Jersey to hasten its efforts to install smart meters to aid in faster power restoration following major storms."
Under the Smart Energy Network proposal, Atlantic City Electric customers would benefit from several key upgrades, including:
- Enhanced reliability with faster and more efficient power restoration for customer homes or businesses, especially following increasingly common severe weather events.
- Improved bill management tools and new online features will enable customers to view more detailed energy use information in near real-time, allowing them to monitor their consumption to help save money and energy.
- More ability to help customers take control of their energy use and reduce usage during peak savings days, earning credits on their bill and helping the environment.
- Better integration of new clean energy technologies and services, including clean electric transportation, rooftop and community solar, and battery storage.
- Better customer experience through upgraded technology will improve billing operations, nearly eliminating the need for estimated billing.
The Smart Energy Network is expected to create numerous jobs for field technicians and support personnel for meter exchanges, as well as project management personnel and IT technicians for the installation of specialized networking equipment.
"Infrastructure investment strengthens New Jersey's economy," Jerry Keenan, executive vice president of Alliance for Action, said. "Atlantic City Electric's Smart Energy Network will help boost energy efficiency programs and ensure that we have the right technology to support more electric vehicle infrastructure and renewable energy, while also creating jobs in the clean energy sector and helping New Jersey's economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic."
Like other upgrades the company makes in the local energy grid, the cost associated with the implementation of the Smart Energy Network will be spread across Atlantic City Electric's customer base over a period of many years in order to achieve the reliability, resiliency, and efficiency benefits, while maintaining affordability. Building the network is expected to cost approximately $220M, or about $4.27 on the monthly bill of a typical residential customer. The company's rigorous cost-benefit analysis shows that these costs will be offset by $415M in customer and operational benefits gained through operational efficiencies, energy efficiency and demand response programs, enhanced billing operations, voltage optimization, and other opportunities.
If approved by the BPU, the company anticipates beginning to build the Smart Energy Network in 2022. Meter exchanges would occur in four regional phases over the course of 21 months and Atlantic City Electric will work closely with its customers and communities regarding the meter exchange process.