FirstEnergy’s Ohio Utilities File Plan to Further Modernize Electric System
Proposed plan would expand investments in smart grid technology
FirstEnergy Corp.’s Ohio utilities – Ohio Edison, Cleveland Electric Illuminating Company and Toledo Edison – have filed a plan with the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) that would expand investments in smart grid technology, including equipment to help reduce the frequency and duration of power outages for customers.
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The filing, known as Ohio Grid Mod II, proposes a four-year, $626 million investment plan that builds upon system upgrades completed since the PUCO approved the utilities’ Grid Mod I plan in 2019. To date, that program has resulted in improved outage restoration times for customers in areas where the smart technology was installed. For example, thousands of Ohio Edison customers in Trumbull and Mahoning counties in northeast Ohio have seen their average restoration times improve by nearly half an hour in more complex outage scenarios, such as equipment damage from severe weather or a vehicle accident. Improvements have also been realized in the Cleveland Electric Illuminating Company and Toledo Edison territories.
“The projects we’ve completed under Grid Mod I have proven to be successful in reducing many power interruptions. This has laid the foundation for us to further enhance service reliability across our entire service area in Ohio,” said Sam Belcher, senior vice president of FirstEnergy Operations. “While events out of our control, like severe weather or vehicle accidents, still have the potential to cause outages, the proposed plan will allow us to enhance our results from Grid Mod I and expand the work to areas of our service territory that have not yet benefited from these enhancements.”
Key components of Grid Mod II include installing:
- Automated equipment on nearly 240 distribution grid sections that can automatically isolate problems, minimize the number of customers impacted by an outage and quickly restore electric service;
- Voltage regulating equipment on nearly 220 grid sections that can provide energy savings by reducing the amount of electricity that must be generated and that allows all customers served by a single power line to receive the same flow of safe, reliable power by evenly distributing electricity down the line;
- 700,000 smart meters along with the necessary supporting communications infrastructure and data management system.
The Grid Mod II smart meter program follows installation to date of approximately 704,000 smart meters as part of Grid Mod I. As the latest in metering technology, smart meters enable customers to better track their energy consumption and eliminate estimated readings. Through the “My Account” feature on www.firstenergycorp.com, customers have access to a variety of tools and information that can help them understand usage and manage electricity costs. Smart meters also can be leveraged by customers electing to enroll in programs like time-varying rates, which can provide price incentives to reduce electricity use during high demand periods throughout the day.
In addition, Grid Mod II would offer smart thermostat rebates of $50 per thermostat and customer energy management reports for residential customers that will further enable them to manage their energy usage. In the future, smart meter benefits also will include the ability to detect and locate outages more quickly and provide more accurate and timely storm restoration information.
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The filing also includes several pilot programs that could provide enhanced customer benefits, such as:
- Programs designed to support the adoption of electric vehicles (EV) across the company’s Ohio service territories. Central to these programs is the testing of higher capacity residential and commercial EV chargers that can charge vehicles faster, the ability to reduce costs by shifting charging demand away from peak demand periods and the use of EV chargers that permit the bidirectional flow of power so that certain EVs can both draw from and contribute power to the grid. The residential program will consist of up to 600 EV charging ports at residential customer homes, and residential customers electing to participate will receive incentives of up to $750. Two commercial programs offered as part of the pilot include incentives of up to $2,000 per EV charging port for up to 300 commercial customer locations, and incentives of up to $20,000 for up to six commercial or governmental customers with ten or more fully electric vehicles capable of bidirectional power flow.
- Installing a battery energy storage system designed to support increased EV charging load along the Ohio Turnpike and enhance grid reliability.
- Installing automated devices in neighborhoods throughout Ohio Edison and Toledo Edison’s service areas, particularly in areas prone to animal- or tree-related outages. The devices work like a circuit breaker in a home that shuts off power when trouble occurs, with the added benefit of automatically reenergizing power lines within seconds for certain types of outages to keep power safely flowing to customers.
“The benefits of Grid Mod II for our Ohio customers through enhanced reliability, energy efficiency opportunities and innovative products and services are estimated to exceed the costs of the program by nearly $280 million in today’s dollars,” said Belcher. “We are excited to enhance the delivery of safe, reliable power through this investment while also promoting modern experiences and emerging technologies that can ultimately help lower energy bills to our customers.”
If approved by the PUCO, a typical FirstEnergy Ohio utility residential customer could expect to see an average monthly charge of about $2.40 for the length of the Grid Mod II plan. The proposed plan includes protections for customers, such as caps on recovery of Grid Mod II costs, annual PUCO audits, the companies’ reporting of metrics and a quarterly collaborative meeting with stakeholders.
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