Electric customers have long been urged to switch out lightbulbs, use energy-saving appliances, turn off the air conditioning in periods of high power demand and take other measures to save electricity.
Energy-saving lighting and appliances are still a major way to conserve, but over the next few years, Southern California Edison customers will be able to save a little more power without doing a thing.
From now through 2017, SCE is expanding automation at 400 of its substations to save energy by better regulating customer voltage.
The so-called distribution Volt/VAR control is done behind the scenes using software, sensors and a computer algorithm to maintain voltage in a tighter range. Reducing voltage fluxuation translates into a more efficient system with less energy lost in customer equipment. This results in both energy and cost-savings.
Based on the company’s experience during the recently-completed Irvine Smart Grid Demonstration Project, the new controls could result in an average 2 percent reduction in overall energy use, said Bob Yinger, an SCE consulting engineer who oversaw the project.
That means a residential customer who normally uses 1,000 kilowatt-hours a month would now use 980 kilowatt-hours.
“That may not sound like much, but when you look at how many kilowatt-hours of energy the company delivers systemwide, it adds up,” Yinger said. “Small changes over 5 million customers can make a difference.”
At a time when global warming is a major topic at the Paris Climate Change Conference, the Volt/VAR control technology also will help reduce greenhouse gas production because there will be less need for more power and less need for new power plants to produce it
The new voltage control technology is just one of the cutting-edge initiatives SCE is undertaking to build a low-carbon grid of the future to provide customers more sustainable, reliable and affordable energy.
Other efforts include expansion of rooftop solar, demonstration projects to advance battery storage technology, supporting zero net energy developments and making it easier and more convenient for customers to own plug-in electric vehicles.
SCE also has supported state initiatives to expand the use of renewable energy sources. The company backed this year’s Senate Bill 350, which requires that 50 percent of energy sales to customers be produced by renewables by 2030.
“At Edison, we believe it is our responsibility — and our opportunity — to help devise the solutions to create the low-carbon and prosperous economy that the people of California want,” Ted Craver, chairman, president and CEO of Edison International, SCE’s parent company, said at the U.S.-China Climate Summit in September. “We hope we can create a model and inspire those far beyond our state.”