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Naperville Smart Grid Initiative: Innovation and Outcomes

The path leading to what is now one of the nation’s first smart microgrids was set nearly 20 years ago. However, if you ask City Manager Doug A. Krieger about its genesis, he said that “It was simply a question of reliability. How can we improve the reliability of our electricity service?” said Krieger. “Over the last 20 years our reliability has improved tremendously. Having high reliability has transformed from becoming a goal to being an expectation. Now, our goal moving forward with the Smart Grid Initiative is focused on customer empowerment.”

“The future of power is here and Naperville is at the forefront,” said Naperville Mayor A. George Pradel at a press event in December announcing the city council’s endorsement of the Naperville Smart Grid Initiative. “This is an exciting opportunity for residents and businesses to directly monitor their energy usage and adjust their consumption accordingly. With our electric utility customers empowered to directly control how and when they use energy, we will lower demand on our grid, thus driving down Naperville’s cost of purchasing energy on the wholesale market. There is a potential net benefit for the city of $34 million ($52 million with societal benefits) over the next 15 years!”

The Smart Grid Initiative will create cost savings by giving the utility and consumers more control over their electric power use. It will reduce the environmental impact of Naperville’s electricity use by reducing demand and increasing opportunities to integrate renewable energy sources such as solar, wind and geothermal power. The smart grid will also serve as the initial infrastructure to support electric car usage for the average household. This project has a three-year implementation phase with work beginning in January 2010.

According to the Galvin Electricity Initiative, community-based projects like the Naperville Smart Grid Initiative demonstrate how municipal utilities can incorporate existing technologies to create smart microgrid electricity distribution systems, and in doing so, meet many of the criteria for Perfect Power. The resulting interactive microgrids are the basis for what the Galvin Electricity Initiative calls the Perfect Power System.

“The Naperville Smart Grid Initiative serves as a model for upgrading and automating the electricity distribution system to meet consumer needs, achieve dramatic improvements in reliability and lower operations and maintenance costs,” said John Kelly, deputy director of the Galvin Electricity Initiative. “Naperville’s achievements over the past 17 years demonstrate what’s possible in electric power system transformation. They prove you can raise quality and dramatically improve reliability at lower costs.”

Many parallels can be drawn between Naperville’s situation in 1992 and what is going on presently with the U.S. power grid. Power outages cost our nation more than $150 billion each year. Aging, unreliable, inefficient, insecure and incompatible with the needs of a digital economy, the U.S. electric system is in dire need of modernization. With technology that pre-dates the 1950s, the system includes decades-old equipment on the verge of failure. While these parts can and will be replaced, the situation presents the nation with an unprecedented opportunity — a chance to also reinvent and change America’s electric grid in ways that are profoundly beneficial to consumers, the environment and the economy.

Naperville could have taken a band-aid approach and fixed the infrastructure as problems occurred. Instead, the city decided to go beyond what was expected and build an electricity system for the future. Recognizing the need for and economic benefit inherent in power grid modernization, the current administration has made it a priority to upgrade our power system. As we come around to the reality that updating the U.S. power system to meet the needs of the 21st century cannot wait, we can look to Naperville as a successful model from which to learn. Naperville embraced the opportunity to go beyond what was required and to blaze a trail by incorporating technology and innovation with their sights set on perfection.

Naperville Smart Grid Initiative Case Study

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