Equs BlogPost 2

In the past months, the reliability and sustainability of our provincial electricity grid has been top-of-mind for Albertans following the emergency grid alerts issued by the Alberta Electric System Operator (AESO) in January that asked all Albertans to temporarily conserve power. These grid alerts are issued by the AESO when there is an imbalance in electricity demand from consumers and supply from generators and imports.

While the imbalance is a complex issue, one tool that can help empower individuals to manage their consumption are smart meters, such as those that EQUS members have with our Automated Metering Infrastructure (AMI). EQUS began testing a network for automated meters in 2018 and eventually began a full deployment of 12,000+ meters and supporting network equipment in 2020.

EQUS Distribution System Specialist, Rick Maclise, led the testing, development, and implementation of our AMI and he shared some information on how these meters are helping us build a stronger, more resilient grid.

EQUS Distribution System Specialist, Rick Maclise, installing a smart meter for an EQUS member.

How do smart meters and their data help EQUS monitor the system?
Smart meters, such as the ones we installed for all EQUS members beginning in 2020, provide us with usage data measured in 15-minute increments. This demand data helps us identify weak spots in our distribution system, which are areas where we’re seeing increased demand stress on infrastructure, that may need to be upgraded or replaced to ensure that power supply remains reliable and that we’re sustainably utilizing that infrastructure.

What does this data mean for overall system health, planning, and maintenance?
When we’re experiencing peak load conditions, as we were when the grid alerts were issued in January, we can access that usage data and get a snapshot of overall system health under extreme stress conditions. That data allows us to really accurately identify opportunities to improve our system planning and proactively address problem areas where we are overloading, or close to overloading, the system at its existing capacity.

How do these meters benefit EQUS members?
The most obvious benefit of AMI and smart meters for EQUS members is the reduction in outage response and restoration time. Usage data can also help members with larger operations or high-consumption electrical equipment save on their bills by controlling peaks in demand that could affect their rates.

Why is EQUS’ smart meter system unique?
What’s different about EQUS’ smart metering system is the network that we developed and adapted to our unique, exclusively rural Service Area. This technology, or very similar technology, is being used in urban settings already, but our EQUS meters on rural properties are much farther apart than meters would be in an urban environment. This required our team to explore some innovative network adaptations we could make to enable meter communication over long distances and varied terrain. The result of this innovation was that EQUS became the first utility in Canada to deploy an ultra-rural smart meter network.

Ensuring that EQUS members have access to safe and reliable electricity distribution services is what we’ve been doing at EQUS since those first poles went into the ground over 75 years ago. Today we’re looking to new technology such as AMI and smart meters to ensure sustainable and reliable electricity services for EQUS members and our rural communities.

 

Learn more about EQUS’ AMI System

Watch Rick explain the advantages of time-of-use pricing for EQUS members.

Smart Metering for a Reliable Grid

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