Chattanooga smart grid delivers $750 million in value over last decade

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Chattanooga’s smart grid is the main beneficiary of the community fibre optic infrastructure, delivering over a quarter of its value.

The fibre optic network, brought to Chattanooga and neighbouring Hamilton County by the local energy and connectivity provider EPB in 2009, is found to have delivered value of almost $2.7 billion during the period 2011 to 2020.

Almost half the value has accrued to business development while households and community benefits are other beneficiaries, according to the study by Bento Lobo, Professor of Finance at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

Moreover, the value estimates exceed both the projections made at the time the infrastructure was planned and those based on the first five-year figures to 2015.

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“Chattanooga’s smart city infrastructure was designed as a platform to give our customers the power to do more,” said David Wade, EPB president and CEO.

“From education and innovation to job creation, it’s amazing to see how our customers are realizing possibilities we could only imagine ten years ago.”

EPB smart grid

EPB’s smart grid plans were a key driver for the fibre optic build-out. With a stimulus award from the Department of Energy the smart grid was built out and became operational with smart metering and other automation in 2012.

Subsequently, agreements have been entered into with the Oak Ridge and Los Alamos national laboratories among others to use the Chattanooga smart grid as a ‘living laboratory’ to test new energy technologies. EPB also continues to explore other applications of its smart grid including microgrids, optical sensors for substations, battery energy storage and unmanned aerial vehicles among others.

The study finds that more than half the benefits the Chattanooga smart grid has brought can be attributed to avoided costs of outages during major storm events. Almost one-third is due to a reduction in outage minutes and interruption, with other benefits including a reduction in power theft and reduction of peak demand.

Overall, as many as 281.1 million residential and commercial customer minutes of outage time are estimated to have been avoided since 2011 with annual savings averaging $26.6 million.

The report also notes a 25% decline in carbon emissions from nearly 4Mt in 2008 to less than 3Mt a decade later, despite a 14% gain in the city’s population and 45% growth in Chattanooga’s economic output.

A contributory factor is the reduction in vehicle use by almost 4 million km that has resulted from automated meter reading and remote disconnects/reconnects of smart metering.

The report also notes a $110 million benefit in smart city research in the smart grid living laboratory.