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AEP Ohio Proposes $290 Million 'GridSmart'
Posted on: 09/17/2013
By  Andy Rex
American Electric Power plans to expand its GridSmart program into more parts of the state, including the Marietta area.
AEP spokesperson Terri Flora says the program started in portions of central Ohio in 2009.  Now, she says the utility has an expansion plan with the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio…
“We have filed with the Commission to expand our smart meter implementation, or what we also call advanced metering infrastructure to 31 communities throughout the state.  The expansion of this includes the installation of smart meters to customers’ homes.  We refer to customers as all customers.  It includes residential and business customers in those areas.”
Areas to receive GridSmart technology have not been determined yet, and may not include all parts of AEP’s service area. 
The meters provide near real-time readings and the secure transfer of usage information to AEP.  Flora says that will improve billing accuracy and eliminate the need for meter readers to come on to a customer’s property.  She adds it also gives the company the ability to quickly check is service is on, or to verify that it has been restored after an outage.
Flora says a second part of the plan includes installing automatic reconfiguration devices on a number of distribution circuits…
“Basically, these are devices that we are putting on about 250 distribution circuits in our service territory.  It helps improve reliability.  These devices, when a fault occurs, will allow us to quickly recover service to parts of that circuit.  Many have referred to this as a self-healing grid.”
A third part of the plan includes installing voltage regulators at 80 substations, designed to control and monitor voltage levels.
So, how long will all this take to complete?  Flora says the timeline starts with approval from the PUCO…
“We hope to have that decision by the end of the year.  But, we also know the Commission does not have a set calendar on this and can take more time if needed.  Our plan is, obviously, to get out and talk to our communities about what we are proposing, help answer their questions.  Once approval is received, we expect this plan to be implemented in four years.  So, it will take time to engineer and then install the devices and equipment in these communities.”
Flora says the total estimated cost of the project is about $290 million, and AEP proposes to finance it through a charge on customers’ bills. If approved, the average customer would see a $2 per month charge on their bill for a five-year period.  
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