What is it?
The Energy Smart Community (ESC) pilot project was created by New York State Electric and Gas (NYSEG) in response to state regulations to increase energy efficiency and reduce fossil fuel consumption. NYSEG chose to create the ESC to study the potential of smart meters and other grid upgrades ability to increase energy efficiency in a section of Tompkins County. Homes and businesses in the Energy Smart Community received “smart” gas and electricity meters in 2018 that remotely send hourly gas and electricity usage information to NYSEG. This information is used internally by NYSEG to manage the system more efficiently and to offer pricing incentives for customers to shift their usage to more energy efficient times of day (see Smart Usage Plan).
Meeting Climate Goals
The need to address climate change has led national, state, and local agencies to work with utilities to come up with innovative solutions to reduce our fossil fuel consumption, increase our energy efficiency, and connect more renewables and other alternative energy projects to the grid. The Energy Smart Community project is in response to New York’s Reforming the Energy Vision, a comprehensive energy strategy that mandates 70% of New York’s energy be generated by renewable sources by 2030 as well as a significant increase in energy efficiency across the grid. The ESC also aligns with Tompkins County's Energy Roadmap which aims to reach a minimum 80 percent greenhouse gas reduction from 2008 levels by 2050, and reduce reliance on fossil fuels across all sectors. Tompkins County Planning Department explains more about the roadmap in this presentation. In order to meet these important goals, NYSEG and utility companies across the state are having to make major changes in the way they do business. NYSEG has responded by initiating several pilot projects within an area of Tompkins County they are calling the Energy Smart Community.
Why Smart Meters?
Smart meters have become an industry standard because they allow for precise measurement of electrical consumption and information can be sent much more frequently via wireless communications. This information can help utilities to automate their electrical distribution systems, aid in a quick response to fluctuations in frequency and power outages, may help increase renewable energy on the grid, and is an essential component of new programs aimed at inspiring residential and small business customers to reduce or shift their electricity consumption away from peak hours (i.e Smart Usage Plan).
NYSEG not only installed new digital two-way meters but also installed a designated wireless communication system that allows the meters to send customers' usage information directly to the company. The meters send the information four times per day and require no meter-readers to come to your home.
Every electrical grid struggles to manage their "peak loads"- times of the day when many people want to use a lot of electricity at the same time. Peak loads can strain the utility infrastructure and require utilities to purchase more electricity to meet that demand. Utilities work with large industrial sites to help shift their loads away from peak times and now utilities across the country are looking to do the same thing with residential and small business customers. Data from the new smart meters allow the utility to implement time-based pricing incentives to urge residential and small business customers to shift their usage to off-peak hours. Check out our newsletter on Peak Demand to find out more.
Resilience & Reliability
As severe weather events increase outages across the country and around the world, utilities are looking for technologies that build grid resilience- the ability to quickly recover from outages and other interruptions. As the grid infrastructure ages, utilities are opting to upgrade equipment to allow for automation and "smart" technologies to increase grid reliability.
The Energy Smart Community is an opportunity for NYSEG to try out these new technologies and projects that may be able to increase the electrical grid's ability to be resilient and reliable in the face of increasing severe weather events. Their new Advanced Distribution Management System uses smart meter data along with other automated technology to optimize grid operations, automatically responding to outages and other grid variances.
Shorter Power Outages: One of the most significant benefits that smart meters have offered other communities is a reduction in power outage times. The location of power outages are often difficult for the utility to pinpoint. Smart meters have a 'last gasp" function that causes them to send an alert when the power has been cut. This allows the utility to more precisely locate the outage and send workers out to repair it more quickly than in areas with analog meters.
Checking your own usage
The detailed gas and electricity usage information provided by smart meters also allows customers to go online and see how much energy they use on any hour of any day. NYSEG has created an online portal called Energy Manager where customers can see their hourly gas and electric usage information as well as get personalized information that can be used to make homes and businesses more energy efficient and potentially save you money. (For more information on this, see our page Navigating Energy Manager).
Connecting to Renewables
The current grid was designed for the last century, where energy flow was one direction-from generation to transmission to distribution. Now, with the increase in home and community solar projects as well as other renewable options, there are thousands of points of small-scale renewable energy generation being added to the grid at varying levels each hour of the day. Smart meters and the associated infrastructure keeps precise track of how much is being generated and how much is being used each hour of the day. While the smart meter infrastructure does not guarantee an increase in local renewable energy, it is a helpful step towards hosting future renewable energy developments.
Other upgrades being implemented as part of the Energy Smart Community include...
The project began with installing 12,400 electric smart meters, automating substation and circuits through a telecommunication system, and deploying an advanced distribution management system.
Click here to see if you are part of the grid upgrade area.
The pilot area is 84 percent residential, 14 percent, commercial, 2 percent municipal, and less than 1 percent industrial. The area encompasses a cross-section of urban, suburban, and rural areas which NYSEG says is important in understanding overall energy use. This cross-section of Tompkins County is the first area to receive NYSEG’s modernized grid upgrades which they hope to scale to the rest of their service territories in the next few years.
Because increasing energy efficiency and reducing fossil fuel consumption are important goals of the Energy Smart Community, and it aligns with Tompkins County’s Energy Roadmap, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County is facilitating community engagement to help maximize the potential of the ESC to help further our County goals. We also recognize the need to increase energy literacy in the community so people are better able to understand and respond to some of the complex changes to our electrical grid on the horizon. We appreciate the opportunity the Energy Smart Community creates to facilitate communication and collaboration between community groups, municipalities, and organization to most effectively meet our local energy goals as well as NYSEG's stated goals.
Last updated July 15, 2019