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UI Seeks Grant to Develop Smart Grid Infrastructure

August 6, 2009

The regional utility has applied for $37.5 million in DOE funds to modernize its transmission and distribution system. The improvements would increase the number of sensors in the grid to pinpoint and manage power outages.

NEW HAVEN, CT /BUSINESS WIRE/ -- The United Illuminating Co. (UI) filed an application with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) for a $37.5 million grant in Smart Grid funds that would enable the company to accelerate efforts to modernize its transmission and distribution system.

UI would invest an equal amount of its own funds in the proposed $75 million project to be completed over three years. If granted, UI would invest the funds in a range of projects designed to upgrade the power grid's capabilities in numerous ways, and in so doing offer measurable benefits to UI's customers.

"These funds would help accelerate the programs we have in place or have planned to implement," said UI CEO James P. Torgerson. "As a result, we will be able to bring the benefits of new technology to our customers much faster."

In the simplest of terms, the smart grid will connect critical points along the system that delivers electricity—from the power plant to the electrical outlet in homes or businesses—by establishing two-way flows of communications.

Once it is fully deployed, the smart grid is envisioned to:

  • Improve consumers' ability to monitor and manage their energy usage and save money on monthly electric bills

  • Allow for a more efficient integration of emerging technologies, such as renewable energy

  • Further enhance system reliability by allowing utilities to detect, isolate, and respond to power outages more quickly, keeping the lights on for more people and avoiding costly blackouts

Funding for the DOE's Smart Grid Investment Grant Program (SGIG) has been appropriated under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (the stimulus package), and will be administered by the DOE's newly created Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability program.

Grants dispersed through the program are intended to cover up to 50% of the cost of individual applicants' smart grid expenditures. Remaining costs associated with UI's smart grid deployment program would be reviewed by the Connecticut Department of Public Utility Control before the costs are included in customers' rates.

"The smart grid funds UI has requested from the DOE would build upon ongoing efforts the company has undertaken over the course of several years," said Joseph T. Ballantine, Associate Vice President, Business Strategy and Development, who is heading the development of UI's grant application.

The infusion of SGIG funds would allow:

  • UI to significantly ramp up a number of programs designed to further enhance system reliability. Investments in this area would include an increase in the number of sensors along the grid, which would allow UI to pinpoint power outages and remotely turn off power in a problem area. The company has plans in place to establish an updated communications system that notifies customers when and where outages occur and when they could expect power to be restored.

  • Improve asset utilization and efficiency. Investments in this area would allow UI to better accommodate the integration of renewable sources of power to its grid, as well as escalate demand-side management programs that allow utilities to call on customers who choose to voluntarily cut back on their usage when supplies are tight and demand is high.

  • Establish two-way communications. One of the central elements of the smart grid is the establishment of integrated, two-way communications systems between utilities and their customers. Research consistently shows that if consumers are more aware of the variable price of electricity—and were rewarded financially for cutting back usage during periods of peak demand—they would have the tools and information they need to manage their energy usage and lower their monthly electric bills.

  • Install advanced meters and metering infrastructure. The investment of SGIG funds would enable UI to speed up the installation of advanced meters that maintain a continuous, two-way connection between the utility and its customers. Over time, UI also plans to add home display units that will allow customers to easily monitor their energy consumption without logging on to the Internet and program smart appliances that cycle on or off, depending on time of day or the price of electricity.

  • Create Jobs. Using the DOE formula for job creation, it is estimated this proposal will create or retain 368 jobs in the three-year development phase and 15 permanent jobs.

About UI
The United Illuminating Co. (UI) is a New Haven–based regional distribution utility established in 1899. UI is engaged in the purchase, transmission, distribution, and sale of electricity and related services to more than 324,000 residential, commercial, and industrial customers in the Greater New Haven and Bridgeport areas. UI's parent company is the UIL Holdings Corp.

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