An Overview for the Future
Southern Company has invested billions of dollars to build and maintain a smarter, more robust transmission and distribution system. Long before the term "smart grid" evolved, we were using smart grid technologies to remotely monitor the grid, gather data regarding grid conditions, and isolate problems on the grid, enabling faster restoration of power.
Over the next few years, we plan to invest billions more to expand and maintain our grid and to ensure that it continues to become even smarter and more robust through the application of intelligent electronic devices. In 2010, Southern Company signed a Smart Grid Investment Grant agreement with the U.S. Department of Energy, formally accepting a $165 million award to be dispensed throughout the company's four-state service territory over a three-year period. This federal funding, which is being matched by Southern Company, is enabling us to accelerate our deployment of these technologies.
Benefits of a Smart Grid
The benefits of a smarter grid are numerous for Southern Company and for our customers. A smarter grid helps us:
- better manage demand.
- lower operating costs.
- improve reliability and efficiency.
- better integrate intermittent renewable energy and energy storage options into the system.
- give our customers more control over their energy usage and more choices for efficiencies in their own homes or businesses.
Characteristics of a Smart Grid
- Capable of providing fast, two-way communication.
- Enhances our ability to monitor and control our entire electric infrastructure in real time and respond quickly to existing and potential problems.
- Has "self-healing" technologies that can automatically isolate potential problems and restore power to unaffected areas.
- Enhances substation monitoring, protection, and control devices.
We're also installing advanced metering, or smart meters, throughout our service territory. This smart meter infrastructure will serve as the last link of a communications connection with our customers.
The Vision of the Future
The Southern Company Smart Grid must be reliable.
A reliable grid provides dependable power and delivers the power quality that customers value. It communicates ample warning of potential problems and withstands most disturbances without failing. It takes corrective action before most users are affected, and restores service quickly to customers not directly affected by system problems. A reliable grid provides system operators the real-time information and the diagnostic tools required for rapid decision-making to either avoid service outages or minimize their impact.
The Southern Company Smart Grid must be secure.
The Southern Company grid must be secure and operationally sound. A secure, flexible grid is more resilient to physical and cyber attacks, and enables operational flexibility to minimize both the potential of significant service disruptions and the time to restore service.
The Southern Company Smart Grid must interact with the customer.
As our grid becomes interactive through the use of smart meters and other advanced technologies, our customers will have access to detailed usage and pricing information that will help them make informed energy-usage decisions. As customers modify their usage, saving money and reducing their environmental impact, Southern Company will see greater reductions in demand, mitigating the need for new generation.
The Southern Company Smart Grid will be more efficient.
Advanced technologies will provide new options to control costs, reduce electrical losses in the transmission and distribution system, and improve asset utilization. Methods to optimize power flows on the distribution system and to economically control the flow of power to reduce transmission congestion will be employed.
The Southern Company Smart Grid will be more environmentally friendly.
An environmentally friendly grid reduces environmental impacts through initiatives in generation, transmission, distribution, storage and consumption. Advanced technologies will provide new options to reduce energy losses and economically deliver renewable energy.
The Southern Company Smart Grid must be safe.
A safe grid will sense system problems and potential equipment malfunctions to reduce the risk to the public and to Southern Company employees. The grid will automatically provide grid condition information to system operators for reconfiguration decisions.