Advanced Grid Infrastructure (AGi)
Implementing technology to serve you even better
We are researching the installation of new technology, Advanced Grid Infrastructure (AGi), that would enhance the communication and operation of our distribution system that delivers electricity to our customers. This technology will help us monitor our system for better efficiency and operation and allow us to have two-way communication to field equipment, providing numerous benefits to our customers and Dakota Electric.
The new technology, which will replace our existing meters and load management devices that are nearing the end of life, has many benefits including:
- Automated power outage reporting, improved restoration and customer communications.
- Enhanced reliability and power quality improvements.
- Improved energy usage information and options for our customers.
- Reduced costs for power delivery to our customers.
- Increased support of renewable energy integration.
- More efficient internal business processes regarding billing and metering.
- Better planning, utilization and operation of our distribution system.
- Operational savings.
- Improved and more effective load management system.
- Improved employee safety.
AGi stands for Advanced Grid Infrastructure. Dakota Electric is using this term to refer to new technologies that would enhance the communication and operation of our distribution system that delivers electricity to our member-owners. These technologies will help Dakota Electric monitor our system for better efficiency and operation and allow us to have two-way communication to field equipment, providing numerous benefits to our members and Dakota Electric.
Some in the industry have been using the terms smart grid or smart meter to refer to components of this new technology. When we use the term AGi, we are referring to what has been called “smart meters,” but it is also referring to more than that. We wanted to use terminology that captures the wider scope of this project, from the meter to our control center to our customer information system.
Our existing meters and load management devices are aging, and the average age of these devices is more than 20 years old. Dakota Electric has more than 116,000 electric meters and about 50,000 load control devices in use today, and we are looking at the best technology to replace this infrastructure.
New metering technology can communicate meter readings and outage information directly to our office and help us prevent outages by identifying failing equipment or overloaded situations before they turn into extended power outages. When an outage occurs, the system will rapidly collect information from individual meters and automatically report the outage so power can be restored, even if the customer is away from home. AGi will also help support the increased integration of renewable energy on the distribution system.
In June 2018, we received final board approval and signed contracts with vendors. Internal design and meter testing and verification will take place in 2018. Then in 2019, we plan to install a limited number of meters and equipment to verify operation and performance of the interconnected systems. If all is in order, we will begin the installation of new meters in 2020, with meter installation taking approximately 24 months.
We estimate the entire project will cost about $1-2 per customer, per month through the life of the system, though this estimate may change. Besides the up-front costs of the installation of the new technology, there will be ongoing costs to operate the system. However, there are ongoing costs with our current metering system and infrastructure that will be avoided. The additional cost, above the operational costs of our current system, is less than $6 million over the 15-year life cycle of the equipment.
We use our members’ energy usage and operational data for billing purposes and troubleshooting and resolving problems with equipment or services. We treat personal information and data about our members as confidential. Our use of load data will be strictly limited to the provision of electric service. We will not disclose, share, rent, lease or sell individual customer data to any third party or affiliate for any other purpose, without the member’s express, affirmative written informed consent.
Research conducted by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the Electric Power Research Institute, the Utilities Telecom Council and others has found no negative health impacts from digital meters that send information via a wireless communications network. The radio frequencies (RF) emitted by digital meters fall well below the maximum recommended in federal guidelines. We haven’t finalized the type of system we will use, so we can’t speak about specifics yet, but our meters are installed outside the home.
The following information is from the American Cancer Society:
“How much RF energy that people are exposed to from the smart meter depends on how far they are from the smart meter antenna and how the smart meter sends its signal. The frequency and power of the RF waves given off by a smart meter are similar to that of a typical cell phone, cordless phone, or residential Wi-Fi router. Smart meters typically send and receive short messages about one percent of the time. Because the smart meter antenna usually is located outside the home, people are much farther away from the source of RF waves than some other possible sources of exposure to RF radiation, such as personal cell phones and cordless phones. In addition, walls between the person and the smart meter’s antenna further reduce the amount of RF energy exposure. This means that the amount of RF radiation that someone would be exposed to from a smart meter is probably much lower than the amount that they would be exposed to from other sources.”
We plan to offer an “opt-out” feature, so that those who do not want a smart meter can request that we do not install one. Choosing to opt-out will most likely incur a monthly charge for the cost of manually reading the meter.