Technology has made our lives easier in so many ways.
Technology has made our lives easier in so many ways. Now the technology exists to upgrade our electric grid to meet the complex demands placed on it by modern life. By investing in a more efficient and reliable power grid, we can keep power flowing reliably to our homes, schools, workplaces, and hospitals.
The current electric grid has served New Brunswick well for many decades, and now it’s time for an upgrade—starting with the meters on customers’ homes and businesses. By updating the infrastructure, we can deliver power more efficiently and reliably, and offer our customers the energy- and money-savings tools that millions of other utility customers now enjoy.
That is why NB Power has asked the New Brunswick Energy and Utilities Board to approve an essential step forward in modernizing New Brunswick’s power grid: Advanced Metering Infrastructure (“AMI”)— commonly called “smart meters.” The project would cost $109.6 million over 17-year period1, and the payoff during this same period would be $140.7 million—a net benefit of $31.1 million.
NB Power has taken a conservative, customer-centric approach to building the AMI business case. The proposed AMI project has been developed with customer expectations in mind, and NB Power intends to complete the required investment while maintaining competitive rates.
|AMI Lifecycle Net Present Value (NPV) 15 Years|
|Total Costs||($109.6 million)|
|Total Benefits||$140.7 million|
|Total Net Benefit||$31.1 million*|
|Discounted Payback Period||11.7 years|
|*differences due to rounding|
The cost saving is only part of the story.
AMI is essential to a modern power grid and will bring significant new benefits to customers and the province well beyond the payback period. Many of the benefits can be quantified—estimated in advance. Here are a few examples from the business case NB Power has submitted to the EUB:
- Lower operational costs, increased efficiency:
NB Power will save money from reduced in-person meter reads and fewer customer service calls. We’ll be able to read the meters over a secure online network, meaning fewer vehicles on the road and fewer staff required to read, connect, and disconnect meters. We’ll also have better visibility into the causes of power outages, making it possible to avoid some service calls. These savings will be passed on to customers through lower overall revenue requirements once full deployment is completed. This will help NB Power continue to provide competitive rates to customers.
- Faster, more efficient troubleshooting:
When something goes wrong in today’s electrical system, a utility worker must drive to the location of the problem to collect data before a solution can be devised. AMI provides better visibility. During an outage, smart meters issue “power-off” and “power-on” messages in real-time. With this information, NB Power will be able to quickly assess an outage and precisely and more efficiently dispatching crews, resulting in improved reliability. And if a customer calls to report a problem, the system will enable us to send a signal to the meter to test whether the issue is caused by an outage on NB Power’s system or a problem with the customer’s electrical system. This two-way communication capability results in reduced visits to diagnose issues and more efficient power restoration.
- Convenient energy-saving tools that lead to province-wide demand reduction:
Giving customers easy ways to monitor their energy usage can encourage energy conservation, and small
changes by individuals can add up to big savings province-wide and help to reduce New Brunswick’s carbon footprint. NB Power will offer its customers a high bill alert service that will notify customers when their bill is trending higher than expected. Many utilities in North America have implemented bill alert programs with a resulting reduction in energy usage.
- Saving costs, saving energy by optimizing voltage levels:
By implementing an AMI-based Conservation Voltage Reduction (CVR) system, a smart grid technology that reduces energy consumption by dynamically optimizing voltage levels of electricity as it moves across power lines, we can gain better visibility into the operation of the grid and reduce energy use by about 60 GWh annually without incurring additional capital, operating and maintenance that would be required from a non-AMI system.
- Detecting unauthorized electricity use:
AMI helps to detect meter tampering and reduce electricity theft—a cost that is borne by paying customers.
In addition to the measurable benefits included in our positive business case, AMI enables important benefits that are more difficult to quantify at this time.
- Offering you convenient ways to save energy and money:
Smart meters make it possible for you to monitor and adjust your energy use through products and services that offer 24/7 usage readings. That means no surprises on your electric bill. Control of your electric usage is in your hands and dollars stay in your wallet, month after month.
- Paving the way for new programs:
A smarter grid will enable us to offer customers a variety of new products and programs aimed at
saving energy, money, and time. By working together to conserve electricity and distribute usage more
evenly throughout the day, we can reduce sharp spikes in demand and avoid building expensive new power
- Improving reliability:
Smart grid technologies provide real-time information into the health of the grid and powerful diagnostic tools, enabling utilities to address many issues before they create outages. In some instances, the grid is even able to “heal” itself automatically.
- Facilitating wide-scale electric vehicle charging:
Like some New Brunswickers, you might be contemplating buying an energy-efficient electric vehicle. If
you do, you’ll need a reliable, low-cost way to recharge it. As electric vehicles gain in popularity, smart grid will be ready to manage the demand.
- Encouraging more renewable power:
Sophisticated smart grid systems are needed in order to strategically manage the diverse and geographically scattered renewable power sources like wind farms, solar plants, and hydro stations. Smart grid will ensure that this energy can be stored safely and distributed where and when it’s needed.
- Enabling better rate design:
Smart meters make it possible to implement more dynamic time-varying rates, which would provide customers with new options for saving energy and money. NB Power’s plan for installing smart meters doesn’t include a new rate structure, because we believe it’s in the best interest of our customers to consider any new rate structure separately from the smart meter proposal.
1The AMI investment analysis period is 17 years. This time frame captures the staggered meter deployment and the cost and benefits over the full 15-year life of the first set of AMI meters deployed. Benefits are calculated proportionately to the number of meters deployed and begin one year after the first meters have been installed.