Columbia Water and Light Completes First Smart Grid Study

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COLUMBIA - The Columbia Water and Light Advisory Board reviewed the first of many studies Wednesday regarding the smart grid system it's considering implementing in the future.

Connie Kacprowicz, Columbia Water and Light Communications and Marketing Supervisor, said the study had three main recommendations: Columbia Water and Light could install the smart grid system, another company could install the smart grid system, or Columbia Water and Light could wait and see how things turn out over the next couple of years.

"We're more going with the third approach, which is get some of this other stuff upgraded that we needed to anyway, and see whether the costs actually come down in the future, and also give us a chance to budget for that," Kacprowicz said.

Currently, if a house runs out of power, Columbia Water and Light has no way to tell without someone calling and letting them know. With the new system, "smart meters" would be installed. The meters would automatically relay information back to Columbia Water and Light.

"We could not only know when a customer is out (of power) through their meter sending us a signal, but also if we did more automation or smart grid technologies on our electric distribution system, we might be able to save sending a guy out on a truck to fix it," Kacprowicz said.

The system will also allow Columbia Water and Light to better help a house that runs out of power.

"With the automated system, you can detect power outages more easily. You can also isolate those (and) potentially get the energy coming from a different source if you have a line down," Kacprowicz said. "So as far as outage detection and repairing the problem, a smart grid system really does help out quite a bit."

Kacprowicz said the first report still needs to be reviewed by the Columbia City Council, which will be the first of many steps towards integrating the system.

"We wanted to do a study now because we need to be looking at it in the future," Kacprowicz said. "In the utility business it takes a long time to implement things, so we want to be ahead of things, looking at it. The report is kind of the initial step."

Kacprowicz said it will be at least two years until Columbia Water and Light will be able to implement the smart grid system.

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