NRECA to pilot smart grid project at Hawaii’s Kauai Island Utility Co.


Mike Yamane, Chief
of operations and
project lead engineer,
Kauai Island Utility
October 10, 2011 – Lihue-based KIUC’s will replace about 33,000 electric meters, covering all residential accounts, with smart meters. The co-op will also install an enhanced communications infrastructure permitting two-way communications with the meters.

With $33.9 million in stimulus funds awarded by the Department of Energy, NRECA’s CRN is studying the benefits of an array of smart grid technologies  for more than 700,000 consumers in 12 states. The demonstration project is evaluating how new technologies can improve reliability and efficiency of cooperative systems.

The effort is aimed at giving the association and its members a better understanding of how electric utilities in general, and co-ops in particular, “may speedily and effectively deploy various smart grid technologies,” the PUC noted.
According to the commission, the new infrastructure will allow KIUC  to conduct remote meter readings and detect outages at the household level. It will also demonstrate the effectiveness of load control and demand response systems and allow the utility to evaluate alternate rate designs.

The co-op’s management has pointed to several smart meter benefits, including improved meter accuracy; billing date flexibility; energy consumption monitoring; faster outage restoration; and the potential for energy efficiency.

According to KIUC, the $11.9 million smart grid project, half of which will be covered through federal stimulus act funding, is “a key component” of its long-term strategic plan.

“We are a small island grid,” noted Mike Yamane, the co-op’s chief of operations and project lead engineer. “Upgrading our electrical grid with smart meters and related technology can make our system more efficient and help integrate new smart appliances, electric cars, and other new and evolving technologies over the coming years.”

Co-op members ultimately can save money if the new technology allows KIUC to better control energy demand and defer investment in conventional baseload generation, he added.

The co-op anticipates smart meter installation will begin early in 2012. It expects that installation of the meters at members’ homes, along with communications infrastructure to assess smart grid effectiveness, will require about two years. This will be followed by three years of data gathering and analysis.