Kentucky investigates smart-grid benefits

The Kentucky Public Service Commission (PSC) is looking into the introduction of a smart grid to boost energy efficiency and provide better services to consumers in the State.

The PSC has initiated a proceeding that it says will examine “all aspects” of smart grid technologies, including their implementation costs, any technical issues and the societal impacts they might have.

The Kentucky Public Service Commission (PSC) is looking into the introduction of a smart grid to boost energy efficiency and provide better services to consumers in the State.

The PSC has initiated a proceeding that it says will examine “all aspects” of smart grid technologies, including their implementation costs, any technical issues and the societal impacts they might have.

The proceeding involves all the State’s electric utilities, which have been asked to provide information to the PSC. Kentucky’s five major natural gas distribution companies have also been automatically signed up as participants, although each has 30 days to request that the PSC remove it from the case.

Other parties that wish to be involved must file a request with the PSC no later than October 30.

“The purpose of this proceeding is to determine the appropriate course for Kentucky to follow with respect to advanced technologies collectively known as smart grid,” said PSC Chairman David Armstrong in a statement. “These technologies enable electric utilities to better manage their systems and may offer customers the opportunity to closely monitor and adjust their electric consumption.”

The PSC also plans to examine whether the use of smart-grid technologies could be combined with a dynamic pricing system that encourages energy conservation and efficiency.

This is not the first time the PSC has looked into the introduction of a smart grid.

In 2006, it considered adopting federal smart-grid standards described in the Energy Policy Act of 2005. Those standards would have required utilities to offer optional rates that varied with the time of day. Although the PSC chose not to adopt the standards, it did require the five electric utilities with generating facilities in Kentucky to offer time-based rates to their largest customers.

The federal Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 required the PSC to consider those standards once again. In 2011, it decided to adopt the federal standard requiring electric utilities to consider using smart-grid technologies whenever they invest in transmission and distribution systems.

Last month, however, it deferred taking a final decision on that standard until the proceeding launched this week has reached its conclusion.

Documents related to the earlier cases will be examined during the new proceeding, as will recent research into smart grids carried out by the University of Kentucky and the University of Louisville.