Energy smart community, Ithaca and Tompkins Country, NY


In 2016 New York State Electric & Gas (NYSEG), an Avangrid company, filed the Distributed Systems Implementation Plan, a requirement of the New York State regulatory commission. The programme is aligned with the New York Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) policy.

An ‘energy smart community’ (ESC) was rolled out in Ithaca, a small sized city in upstate New York. The population is particularly knowledgeable and engaged with issues relating to renewable energy and has actively advocated for its use. Cornell University in Ithaca provides extra collaboration options with a respected institute.

The ESC is a unique programme for a fully integrated smart distributed energy and customer platform. It is upon this comprehensive pilot project that Avangrid and NYSEG are building their capabilities as a utility of the future. The programme will advance NYSEG’s ability to serve as a distributed systems platform (DSP) provider.

The role will require investments and development in people, processes, and technologies. Utilising the lessons learned from the small-scale environment to build the knowledge and expertise in the role will help support NYSEG’s transition to serving as the distributed system platform provider on a larger scale.

The project team is made up of a core project management office, a project director and a lead each for the four pillars of the programme; namely integrated system planning, market enablement, market communications and grid operations. There are additionally business representatives who are subject matter experts on each of the individual projects.

In addition to the local resources dedicated to the projects there are international resources from Iberdrola, NYSEG’s parent company in Spain.

Scope of the programme

The ESC scope consists of three programme elements that address the major aspects of NYSEG’s ability to act as the DSP provider: 1. Integrated system planning: Implement new processes and tools for integrated distribution system planning.

  1. Market enablement: Support customer and third-party engagement in market operations.
  2. Grid operations: Operate the grid efficiently and reliably.

Integrated system planning

Integrated system planning encompasses hosting capacity calculations for accepting solar onto the distribution system. The NYSEG website hosts a ‘heat map’ for developers identifying locations amenable to solar and encompasses DER load forecasting and a DER developer portal.

Market enablement

The second part of the programme, market enablement and data sharing, included the launch of the Simple Energy platform, a marketplace for products and services. This is available to all NYSEG customers in Ithaca and is a marketplace through which they can purchase smart thermostats, qualify for an instant rebate and sign up for one of the NYSEG demand response programmes. This one-stop shop provides access to energy products and services with prequalified local vendors.

This part of the project was well received within the ESC, and NYSEG is looking at further enhancing it over the next two years, making more energy efficiency products and services available.

The success of the programme thus far is based on a combination of factors including the fact that the customers in the area trust NYSEG as the local utility provider. The company is in the final stages of drafting a report on lessons learned and how the company can bring some of those solutions to scale.

NYSEG completed baseline and follow up surveys of ESC and NYSEG customers and completed initial and revised customer segmentation in order to continue with refined segmentation-based communications of smart meters, ESC customer platforms and ESC consumer profiles.

Grid operations

NYSEG has deployed smart meters to approximately 12,000 customers, seeing only a 1.3% opt-out rate; a very low rate for this type of programme. Effective stakeholder engagement and communications has been key in keeping the opt-out rates low; and multiple meetings between NYSEG staff and local communities were undertaken to answer any questions and address concerns.

The energy manager platform integrates the Itron Open Way RIVA system. As smart meter deployments are across both electricity and gas, interval data across both types of meters are visible on the energy manager platform. Consumers can use Green Button download to gain access to their information or utilise the intelligence on the platform and view summaries and bar charts of the data. NYSEG additionally provides energy track reports, which are a summary of the consumers’ interval use, in either an email or written report.

This was further accompanied by the Smart Usage Plan and a critical peak period time of use rate. In the ESC, critical peak period is between 4pm and 6pm in the evenings and the intention is to shift load through the utilisation of a time of use rate.

In May 2018, NYSEG launched an Energy Manager portal with the following functions:

• EnergyTrack report (April 2018)

• Smart usage plan enrolment

• What-if scenarios for rate analysis • Smart alerts (via email)

• Usage threshold alert

• Green Button ‘download my data’

• Green Button ‘connect my data’

• Pending energy manager functionality

• Smart alerts – email and text

• Smart usage plan bill calculation.

NYSEG has completed automation of 15 distribution circuits and four substations within the upgrade area.

NYSEG further launched a Smart Partner Programme to assist low to moderate income (LMI) customers within the NYSEG Tompkins County service territory understand how their households use energy, demonstrate/explain the best ways to decrease their energy use and provide the tools to do so.

Lessons learned

Having clear programme and project-based metrics and measures of success are always important to track progress and successful implementations. Additionally, support from a dedicated project team and resources makes a significant impact, along with deep engagement from business functions on project leadership.

A key, but often overlooked, element of a successful project implementation is having an effective smart meter installation vendor.

This impacts the operational elements of the programme and has an effect on the perceptions of customers.

Next steps

Plans are in progress to complete automation deployment of capacitor banks for CVR and VVO. Additionally, further development of the DER developer portal to provide valuable information to developers.

Continued development and testing of the advanced distribution management system (ADMS), including the AMI/OMS (outage management system) interface, distribution network analysis function and control system enhancements will be undertaken.

This will be coupled with more development of the energy manager platform and continued enhancements to the NYSEG Smart Solutions Marketplace to include additional services and product offerings.

NYSEG will develop and launch a smart home rate through the use of delay-differentiated pricing to provide discounted delivery rates for EVSE charging, with pricing based on system benefits from a customer’s flexible schedule. Additionally, NYSEG will further explore the deployment of grid level and behind-the-meter storage projects.

Applying analytics and machine learning to customer and system data to refine segmentation and drive metrics related to TOU rate participation, NYSEG will evaluate system efficiency and peak load reduction. The same will be undertaken on Smart Solutions Marketplace transactions, bundled products and services to estimate dollar savings and CO2 equivalent reductions. These results will be used to integrate with NYSEG’s segmentation to assist in targeted customer communications and offerings. The intention is to leverage both customer data and system data to provide value to both the company and its customers.

In July 2018 NYSEG launched the 2018 Distributed System Implementation Plan, an updated version of the plan released in 2016. This aims to build on the objective of providing customers with online access to their own energy usage by time of day and solutions in the form of programmes and innovative products and services that will give them greater control over their energy usage.

Customers will be able to participate in service options that improve the efficiency of the grid and reduce carbon emissions by reducing energy usage during periods of high demand. Most significantly, customers will be able to transact directly with products and services offered by distributed energy resource (DER) developers, competitive suppliers, and aggregators.

Investments over the next five years will allow NYSEG to integrate unprecedented amounts of renewable and distributed energy resources. The ability to integrate DER depends on a smart, automated distribution grid that will allow the company to maintain power quality and reliability for every customer while enhancing the resiliency of the grid; by building technologies to capture real-time customer and grid performance data, systems that can leverage this data to plan and operate the grid, and analytical capabilities that can convert granular data into insights for customers and other market participants to make informed decisions.

These investments complement system hardening and other resiliency investments. The resiliency plan includes measures that will harden the power grid to better withstand and recover from storms while also utilising technology that will help customers better manage their energy consumption.

Having focused for the past two years on building foundational capabilities and testing the foundational technology in the Energy Smart Community, NYSEG is now in a position to begin to integrate and deploy emerging technologies including electric vehicles and energy storage. The utility is building grid capabilities to support growth of EV throughout its service territories, and plans to support the proliferation of smart EV chargers. Similarly, NYSEG is focused on identifying ways that energy storage can support grid operations and benefit end-use customers; and continues to focus on ways to improve marketing of energy efficiency programmes. The company is preparing to leverage granular usage and system data as it becomes available beyond the Energy Smart Community with the deployment of AMI and other technologies.

This article was originally published in Smart Energy International 1-2019.  Read all articles via our digital magazine today.