Highlighted by appearances from Senators Patty Murray (D-WA) and Maria Cantwell (D-WA), a press conference at the University of Washington in Seattle officially kicked off the “go-live” phase of the Pacific Northwest Smart Grid Demonstration Project.

“Lighting up the largest smart grid demonstration in the country” was the official theme of this event, which was part of the university’s overall Sustainability Week celebration. But many of the press conference speakers focused on a more subtle aspect of the project – the unparalleled collaboration that brought such a large and diverse group of partners together.

As Senator Cantwell remarked, “Looking around this room, it’s clear we have the talent, technology and tools to become a leader in the energy economy of the future. So congratulations to all of the project’s partners and the students who are making this possible.”

BPA’s Deputy Administrator Bill Drummond summed up how the regional cooperation started at the top, with our elected officials, and trickled down to the heart and soul of the smart grid project – the people who are implementing the technologies and programs in their homes, businesses and even dormitories.

“I want to thank Senator Murray for her leadership on the Appropriations Committee, for securing the funding that took this project from a small demonstration to a major initiative,” Drummond said.

“And I want to thank Senator Cantwell for championing Smart Grid, including sponsoring legislation that provided framework for smart grid demonstrations nationally. I also want to thank our utilities, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, and our end-use partners – the consumers of electricity – for making this a collaborative effort. The Pacific Northwest is providing national leadership in sustainability and we couldn’t do it without all of these dedicated partners.”

A utility customer of Seattle City Light, The University of Washington proved to be the perfect spot for the kick-off, with the enthusiastic students sharing the details of their projects with dignitaries at the event. Their contagious passion for sustainability was the highlight of numerous news reports.

For example, Oregon Public Broadcasting led their coverage with a student showing Senator Cantwell an energy monitoring device attached to lamps that she controlled with her smart phone. The Seattle Times focused on the students’ excitement in helping the University cut its energy bills.

For UW Provost, Ana Mari Cauce, pride for the students and the smart grid demonstration, was obvious in her remarks. “The University of Washington is recognized as a national leader in sustainability within the higher education community,” she said. “The project provides an exciting opportunity for testing how 21st century technology can reduce energy consumption. Given our students’ keen interest in the environment, it is appropriate that much of our research on smart grids will occur within our residence halls and that the initial research will be conducted by students in our Program on the Environment.”

The kick-off in Seattle is the first in a series of celebrations around the region, as milestones help demonstrate the project’s success.
One of BPA’s major roles in the project is developing the business case for smart grid investments. We need to know what major infrastructure and technology investments will provide the greatest value to northwest ratepayers in the long run. The regional pilot project will help the Pacific Northwest make those decisions. And considering the scale of the project, the results of the business case will also serve as a resource to other regions across the country.

Write up from the Department of Energy:
October 31, 2012
Pacific Northwest Smart Grid Demo Begins Data Collection

The Pacific Northwest Smart Grid Demonstration Project on October 24 began a two-year period of collecting energy-use data from its 11 participating utilities. The approximately $178 million project is a public-private demonstration, co-funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act through the Energy Department. It will involve more than 60,000 metered customers and is the largest demonstration of its kind. A team will evaluate the data from five states—Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington, and Wyoming—at the Energy Department’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL).

In this phase, 11 participating utilities will evaluate the benefits of Smart Grid technologies at the local and regional levels. The project team will look at how a smarter grid can help deliver electricity more efficiently using a two-way information exchange, and how more wind and solar energy power can be used. Battelle Memorial Institute is leading the collaboration with utilities, universities, and technology partners. See the PNNL press release, the Pacific Northwest Smart Grid website, and the Smartgrid.gov website.

Other notable events
• The Pacific Northwest Smart Grid Demonstration Project was the featured U.S. smart grid demo at meeting of “Implementing Agreement for a Co-operative Programme on Smart Grids,” in France on Sept. 24 – 26. The U.S. Department of Energy specifically requested for Project Director Ron Melton to present at this event, which was sponsored by the International Smart Grid Action Network.

• “The Pacific Northwest: The Smart Energy Frontier.” That was the theme of the Bonneville Power Administration’s platinum sponsorship at this year’s GridWeek in Washington, D.C., Oct. 2 – 4. This opportunity provided an excellent venue for PNWSGDP information sharing, including featured speaking, a special media event and panel discussions from BPA, Battelle, technology vendors and utility partners. BPA also staffed booth that was packed with visuals including banners, a phasor measurement unit, smart meter, home energy management devices and numerous fact sheets.