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CVPS SmartPower™ plan moves forward

By Steve Costello

It will take a couple of years for it to come to full fruition, but one of the biggest changes in the history of Central Vermont Public Service is slowly moving forward: the implementation of CVPS SmartPower™.

CVPS SmartPower™ is part of the broader eEnergy Vermont smart grid program that Vermont utilities are working on together as part of the $68 million smart grid investment grant awarded to Vermont’s utilities by the Department of Energy last October.  Together, we hope to provide Vermonters an improved electrical grid and new choices regarding how they use electricity, and how they pay for it.  A “smart grid” delivers electricity to customers using digital technology.

In our case, we are particularly interested in how customers may view the so-called “smart grid,” and we plan extensive analysis of customer education needs and desires, including extensive pilot programs, to determine how utilities and customers can maximize the benefits of the new technologies that will be deployed.

CVPS SmartPowerTM is intended to empower consumers to make better energy choices while helping the company enhance reliability of the grid, improve storm recovery, better incorporate small generators onto the system and reduce costs.

For example, a “smarter” grid could better handle the ebb and flow of smaller renewable energy projects, helping to facilitate their development while also ensuring grid safety and reliability.

During storms, CVPS SmartPower™ is expected to help us more quickly determine the extent, location and severity of power outages, rather than relying on customers to report their interruptions.

SmartPower will also allow us to read meters electronically, simplifying meter reading and reducing the time and environmental impacts of driving from customer to customer.  We’ll also be able to turn on and off services remotely, saving time and money in the process.

Customers who choose to take advantage of the program may be able to reduce their energy consumption or save money taking advantage of time-of-day rates that reward movement of usage from on-peak to off-peak hours.  Doing so can also reduce environmental impacts of energy consumption, and SmartPower may enable many other societal benefits to our customers and the State of Vermont.

The program will require a sizeable investment, in our case more than $60 million, but half that will be paid through the smart grid investment grant being funded by the Department of Energy.  CVPS will raise the remainder of the program’s cost through borrowing money or selling stock, so there will be some up-front costs.  For example the cumulative rate increases over the first five years total under 1.0%, but rates are reduced over the life of the SmartPower project. Overall the program is expected to provide economic benefits to the company and our customers.

In early April, CVPS and the Vermont Department of Public Service reached agreement on the company’s SmartPower plan.  The DPS signed a memorandum of understanding with CVPS supporting approval of the plan, which was filed with the PSB.

The Vermont Public Service Board is reviewing the plan for approval.  Anyone who would like to comment on the plan may do so by writing to the PSB at 112 State Street, Montpelier, VT 05620-2701, or via e-mail at psb.clerk@state.vt.us, by May 24, and comments should refer to Docket 7612.

More information is available on CVPS’s Web site, at www.cvps.com.

The writer is director of public affairs at Central Vermont Public Service.

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