Smart grid means different things to different people. To those in the utility industry, smart grid can help optimize resources and enhance reliability. To consumers, smart grid can provide choices as to how, when, and for some, at what price they use electricity. In the Pacific Northwest, we define smart grid as an electrical system that uses technology to enhance power delivery and use through intelligent, two-way communication all the way from power generation and suppliers to end-users.

Through this communication, smart grid can give us the information we need to help us make better use of our existing power supply—and to help us meet increasing power demands, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, promote energy independence, enhance reliability and help improve our nation’s energy security.

The Pacific Northwest Smart Grid Demonstration Project is testing the costs and benefits of smart grid with 60,000 customers in five states, including: Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana and Wyoming. The project, which is the largest of its kind in the nation, is led by Battelle Memorial Institute, Pacific Northwest Division. Participants include the Bonneville Power Administration, 11 utilities, two universities and a handful of technology firms. It includes 112 megawatts of responsive resources and will last for five years. The $178 million project is funded by $89 million in participant funds and the same amount in matching DOE monies through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

The “smarts” of the project live within a unique information signal, called the transactive incentive signal, which is being researched to see if it can move throughout the project’s participants—all the way from generation to end-user. The project will determine if the signal can incentivize the delivery and use of power to balance the grid and incorporate renewable power from the wind and sun. A test of this signal, which is slated to be up and running by September 2012, was successfully completed in April.

The project team also aims to develop a solid business case for smart grid in our region by measuring and validating the costs and benefits of this type of technology to consumers, utilities, regulatory bodies and the nation. The business case will be shared throughout the five state region to inform investment decision-makers on the technologies tested and can potentially serve as a model for other parts of the country.

Project-level participants:
Battelle Memorial Institute, Bonneville Power Administration, IBM, Netezza, 3TIER, Alstom Grid, QualityLogic
Avista (with Washington State University), the City of Ellensburg, Wash., Benton PUD, Flathead Electric, Idaho Falls Power, the City of Milton-Freewater, Ore., NorthWestern Energy, Peninsula Light Company, Seattle City Light, Portland General Electric, Lower Valley Energy, University of Washington
Key smart grid locations:
View Key Smart Grid Locations Map.