Walker Kevin 26989

A Modernized Grid That Benefits All

Nov. 16, 2022
There are still challenges to overcome, but we have the tools and resources to boldly harness opportunities today to enable a cleaner, healthier and more equitable future tomorrow.
The electric grid is getting a lot of attention these days, and rightfully so. In order to realize a decarbonized future, to make the grid more resilient to increasingly severe weather events and cyberattacks, to meet growing public demand for building and transportation electrification, and to enhance control, monitoring and management capabilities that will facilitate the seamless integration of all of this, strategic investments in the electric grid are required. Given this reality, it’s no surprise that many are wondering what utilities are doing to keep up.

As the leader of Duquesne Light Company (DLC), a Pittsburgh-based electric utility providing transmission and distribution service to more than 600,000 customers in southwestern Pennsylvania, our vision is to enable a clean energy transition that benefits all customers and communities in our service territory.

The importance of working together with all stakeholders to bring this vision to life cannot be overstated. A cleaner, healthier, more equitable and economically vibrant future for our region is non-negotiable and will require bold and sustained efforts from all involved.

This past September, our great city of Pittsburgh hosted the Global Clean Energy Action Forum, marking the first time the event was held in the U.S. As part of the host committee, our company was honored to help highlight Pittsburgh’s global leadership in the clean energy movement and showcase our region’s capabilities and innovative spirit that will guide us through this next frontier of industrialization.

To achieve our vision of a “clean energy future for all,” we must prepare our grid to be flexible and adaptable without compromising service and affordability for our customers.

The U.S. grid is a true engineering marvel, with more than 600,000 miles of transmission lines. It’s a lot to upgrade, maintain and protect, but it is necessary as the grid is an essential component of our everyday life.

By modernizing the grid with new technologies and equipment, electric utilities can be more reliable and efficient through the associated reduction in the frequency and duration of power outages; the reduction of storm impacts and increased consideration for the long-term effects of our changing climate; and the rapid and coordinated integration of customer energy choices.

Now, some facts. Between 2011 and 2021, DLC invested more than $3.1 billion in infrastructure and technology upgrades, and we’re prepared to invest an additional $2 billion by 2026. By implementing advanced technologies and investing in our existing infrastructure, we can upgrade the grid in a way that’s advantageous for everyone.

In the summer of 2021, DLC initiated a partnership with LineVision, a Massachusetts-based technology company, to install dynamic line rating (DLR) sensors across several transmission lines in our service territory. Through this project, we’ve been especially interested in finding ways to increase operational line capacity with forecasted and real-time DLRs.

DLRs are designed to maximize load while keeping safety and environmental conditions top of mind during daily operations. In the electric utility industry, transmission lines play a key role in transferring centralized electricity from generation sources to customers and transferring decentralized customer- and community-generated electricity to the transmission grid/market.

Our pilot project with LineVision uses real-time and forecasted insights from DLR sensors to monitor transmission conductors and unlock additional grid capacity during the operating day, with the purpose of making service more resilient, efficient and affordable. The project followed the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s inquiry to explore if DLRs are needed to ensure just and reasonable wholesale rates.

In the year since launching the project, DLC has identified an average of 25% additional available capacity on the DLR-equipped transmission lines. If these results are validated as we further scale the pilot, DLC can integrate renewable energy sources more quickly to meet our customers’ growing demand for electricity and advance our mission to enable a clean energy future. 

Another use-case for our DLR data is to help us more accurately determine line congestion and conditions in real time. Additionally, we can enhance our analytics capabilities around predictive and preventative maintenance and further increase service reliability, resiliency and affordability. 

Because of our region’s rich industrial past and historically dense population, much of DLC’s grid has additional capacity. However, we are studying which areas may be more constrained while continuing to find ways to predict and meet customers’ needs in a future where electrification is more prevalent.

We should focus on electrifying what makes sense in ways that benefit people and the planet. As we continue to innovate and uncover more capacity on the grid, we’ll remain laser-focused on meeting the increasing electrification demand, specifically electric mobility and buildings, while interconnecting more clean energy sources like wind and solar.

We really are at an exciting crossroads in our industry. The benefits of a clean energy transition include everything from workforce development to increased safety and reduced impact from power outages.

There are still challenges to overcome, but we have the tools and resources to boldly harness opportunities today to enable a cleaner, healthier and more equitable future tomorrow. Through concerted collaboration and strategic partnerships, we can make this transition a reality for every customer and community — and DLC is committed to leaving no one behind on the journey.

Kevin Walker is president and CEO of Duquesne Light Co.

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