Smart Grid: In Progress
RPU’s electric distribution system is modern and reliable because of investments already made to increase operational efficiencies, improve service to customers, and provide customers with valuable information regarding their energy usage. These investments mean RPU is already heading down the path to becoming a maximum information utility. Levels of Smart Grid functionality already within RPU’s system include:
Automated Meter Reading (AMR)
The AMR system now encompasses all of our residential electric meters and 99 percent of our water meters. With AMR, meter readers drive through neighborhoods and gather information remotely via wireless connection. This replaces the old method of walking house-to-house to manually record meter data.
Geographic Information System (GIS)
The computerized software provides us with an overall picture of our facilities in the field and is utilized in our outage management system, location searches for repairs, and new electric service design.
We have made a significant investment by installing microprocessor-based protective relays in our electrical substations. The new relays provide sophisticated protection for worker safety, customizable control, digital information about load, and significant outage information.
Home Energy Reports
25,000 RPU customers receive a free Home Energy Report as part of a pilot program in the City of Rochester. The report provides customers information on their energy use and offers easy, personalized energy saving tips.
Communicating with our Customers
We were among a small number of utilities on the cutting edge of electronic communication in 2004, when we launched our internet blog, “Behind the Meter” (http://blog.rpu.org/). Recently, we revamped its design to give customers more ways to react to our postings. At the same time, we set up a Facebook page and began instant messaging on Twitter.
Energy Efficiency Programs
Through our CONSERVE & SAVE® program, RPU continues to offer rebates to our customers who purchase and install new energy and water efficient appliances and equipment. RPU and Minnesota Energy Resources have teamed up with the Center for Energy and Environment to offer Rochester homeowners the Neighborhood Energy Challenge, a new full-service residential energy audit program.