The City of Douglas is moving Douglas utilities into the 21st century with the implementation of Smart Grid. Smart Grid was designed to deliver utilities to consumer homes and bill them once a month. Smart grid uses a two-way communications so that exchange can be made between the utility provider and its customers. It is a developing network of communications, computers, automations, and new technologies, working together to make the grid more efficient, more reliable, more secure, and greener.
Smart Grid follows the footsteps of the Internet and the interstate highway system -- they are giant investments in infrastructure. It's not so much a single thing as it is a goal to give the utility system a digital makeover to make it more efficient and reliable. The benefits of Smart Grid include more efficient transmission of electricity, quicker restoration of electricity after power outages, reduce cooperation and management costs for utilities and ultimately lower power costs for consumers, reduce peak demand which will also lower electric rates, increase the integration of large-scale renewable energy systems, better integrate customer-owner utility systems including renewable energy systems and improve security.
Another benefit to these utility enhancements will be the Customer Portal. The Customer Portal will allow Douglas utility customers to track their consumption which will allow the customer to identify problems such as a faulty thermostat or water leak. Allowing customers to track their energy, water, and gas usage will enable them to become more energy efficient, thus, reducing utility bills. Customers will be allowed to set thresholds to receive alerts from their utility accounts, see an estimate of the monthly bill at any time, and view/print previous months billing. Once the pilot testing is complete, customers will be able to register online.
The Customer Portal will be located as a web link on the City of Douglas website for easy access. “We felt this upgrade was very important for our customers,” says Mike Hudson, Douglas Utilities Director. “These upgrades are a part of the EPA Clean Power Initiative and will help us provide better service to our customers.”
Customers should see utility workers installing new electric, water, and gas meters as well as retrofitting old encoder, receiver, transmitter (ERT) devices with new ERTs. All customer support personnel have received training on the Utility Hawk/Customer Portal Software. Currently, this project is operating in a pilot mode and the project is on schedule. The soft launch/testing date for the system will be approximately 2-3 months. Smart Grid will continue to be implemented in phases with completion estimated to be by the end of the 2017 year.
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