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Electricity Use Drops, Customer Satisfaction Rises In Major Utilities’ Smart Grid Programs, Vermont Law School Studies Show

June 19, 2012

SOUTH ROYALTON, Vt. -- Electricity customers are using less power and seeing other benefits under smart grid programs adopted by two of the nation's largest public power utilities, according to study results released today by Vermont Law School's national smart grid research project.Image of electric tower

The VLS Institute for Energy and the Environment's (IEE) case studies of the Salt River Project (SRP) in the Phoenix area and the Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) suggest:

Clear policies speed smart grid results: SRP and SMUD both demonstrate that strong internal policy leadership facilitates effective smart grid implementation. While implementation has been criticized in some regions as benefiting the utilities, the leadership of SMUD and SRP, as well as other publicly owned power utilities, suggests there are strong benefits for customers. Additionally, California and other states with clear policies are moving steadily toward their goals rather than getting bogged down in debate over what the goals should be.

Smarter technology clears the way for more efficient electric usage, which can lead to environmental improvement: The SRP's success with time-of-use rates and customer pre-pay service offers clear promise for voluntary dynamic pricing that is enhanced by smart technology. SRP's pre-pay program experience-giving customers timely information about their electric usage and letting them control their consumption-has resulted in satisfied customers and a 12 percent drop in power use. SMUD's pioneering leadership in clean technology is enhanced by the integration with smarter technology at the customer meter and throughout the distribution system, which opens new opportunities for increasing customer value.

Image of Kevin Jones"SRP and SMUD are unique public power utilities with rooted histories that are making aggressive steps to modernize its electric system," said Kevin Jones, the IEE's smart grid project leader. "Like other utilities that are today's leaders in smart grid implementation, these efforts in many ways still mark a starting point, rather than an ending point in establishing a truly smart grid."

The IEE's final report is due later this year on case studies of six diverse utilities across the country in order to recommend best practices that can be replicated nationwide: Commonwealth Edison, Central Vermont Public Service Company, Pecan Street Project, Sacramento Municipal Utility District, Salt River Project and San Diego Gas and Electric. The IEE is studying the legal, policy and regulatory hurdles to upgrading the U.S. electric system with smart grid technology. The federal government has awarded $3.4 billion in stimulus funds to utilities and other entities, making the smart grid a key part of the U.S. clean energy agenda.

The IEE's research is designed to help understand which laws and policies will best ensure that a smart grid improves electric reliability, enhances customer value and helps meet the nation's clean energy goals. The Electric Power Research Institute estimates that fully implementing a smart electric grid nationwide will cost $1.3 trillion to $2 trillion, with benefits likely exceeding costs by a factor of three or more. Research from Pacific Northwest National Laboratory estimates that with full implementation of a smart electric grid by 2030, U.S. energy consumption and carbon emissions could be reduced by 12 percent.

Read the IEE's case studies on the SRP and SMUD. Read more about VLS's Smart Grid Research Project.

Jones is available to comment at 802-353-2334 or kbjones@vermontlaw.edu.

CONTACT: John Cramer, Associate Director of Media Relations, Vermont Law School
Office: 802-831-1106, cell: 540-798-7099, home: 802-649-2235, jcramer@vermontlaw.edu

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