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Portland General Electric Launches Smart Grid Test Bed

(Portland General Electric’s smart grid test bed area. Image courtesy of PGE.)

Portland General Electric Company recently announced the launch of its Smart Grid Test Bed, a first-of-its-kind-project that will integrate smart grid technology on a large scale. The project aims to accelerate PGE’s vision for a clean energy future through partnering with customers in entirely new ways to decarbonize the grid.

PGE’s test bed spans three distinct neighborhoods within its service area. Through the test bed, the company is preparing more than 20,000 customers to take advantage of special demand-response signals as well as incentives for using smart-home technologies, giving them greater control over their energy use and carbon footprint.

According to PGE, the pilot is helping to build the roadmap to a virtual power plant — one powered by customer devices and behaviors rather than traditional generation — that will help address climate change, empower communities in how they consume energy and create a more resilient power system, all while saving customers money.

PGE will make this a seamless experience for customers by helping them automate their smart devices, such as thermostats, water heaters, electric vehicle chargers and batteries, to work in concert with PGE as it operates the grid. During times when demand for electricity is especially high in the region, customers will be able to decide on an event-by-event basis if they want to participate in reducing or shifting their energy consumption. Additionally, the entire region will benefit as PGE integrates even more renewable energy resources into its power supply without compromising grid safety, security or reliability.

Customers in the test bed are all-in

Earlier this week, residents in the test bed neighborhoods were automatically enrolled into PGE’s Peak Time Rebates, a demand-response program that rewards customers for shifting their energy use during times when temperatures are particularly hot or cold.

Auto-enrollment will help PGE achieve its target participation rate of at least 66% — approximately 10 times the national average for similar programs. This will provide insight into customer interactions with the programs and opportunities to demonstrate the benefits of adopting smart grid technologies at an unprecedented scale. PGE will share these learnings broadly for the benefit of the entire energy community.

Removing barriers to participation

Throughout this multi-year pilot, PGE will offer different programs and incentives to understand how best to partner with all types of customers, and how to offer more equitable solutions. The pilot will explore topics including:

  • Structuring programs that best fit varying customer needs.
  • Automating programs so they’re convenient for customers.
  • Working with partners on next-generation offerings.



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