On the distribution side, measures to enable self-healing include distribution automation; alternate feeders with power-electronics-based transfer switching; micro-grids and meshed distribution systems; high impedance fault location; automatic switching off of nonessential loads; and effective use of local, generally customer-owned power and storage.
Customers are not just consumers of electricity; they may also participate in generation and storage options as well as interactively respond to price signals. One way to optimize the use of electricity resources, in fact, is to motivate the customer to make wise end-use decisions (PNNL, 2007). Implementing new technologies (such as smart two-way meters and wireless communications with a residence’s major appliances) empowers consumers to make sound choices about their electricity use, thereby contributing greatly to a robust, efficient, and reliable distribution system (CECA, 2003; NETL, 2007c).
For example, providing electricity-pricing information to customers has been shown to reduce peak demand and assist in levelizing power demand. In addition, better information of this kind can enable the distribution-system operator to utilize the system more efficiently. The challenge primarily addresses the distribution system; however, it must ultimately include transmission, as decisions on the consumer side will, when taken in bulk, affect power markets and energy trading.
The aggressive introduction of technologies such as intelligent metering and real-time pricing could create incentives to shift energy use to off-peak times, thereby reducing demand for peak-load power generation and decreasing stress on the T&D system overall. For example, 20 percent of California’s electricity demand is used to move water, which can be done predominantly at night. Similarly, technologies could automate industrial and residential electricity-use decisions so that energy-intensive equipment and appliances could be run at night (or on weekends) rather than during peak-load hours. Utilities may be able to reduce demand in this way, at virtually any time of day and in real time, by communicating with end users and even directly with their appliances.
Detailed information on energy use and costs empowers individuals to take more proactive actions in their best interests. Programs to enhance consumers’ understanding of their pricing options will be critical in order to fully utilize the potential of the peak-shaving capability of demand response and grid-friendly appliances.