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Smart Electric Energy Districts for Enhanced Community Resiliency

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Elizabeth Cook's picture
Director of advanced grid services at Duquesne Light Company, Duquesne Light

Experienced General Manager with a demonstrated history of working in the utilities industry. Strong engineering professional skilled in PSS/E, Power Transmission, Transformer, Power Systems, and...

  • Member since 2021
  • 3 items added with 2,267 views
  • Oct 26, 2022

This item is part of the The Grid: Reliability & Resilience - October 2022 SPECIAL ISSUE, click here for more

By Dr. Elizabeth Cook, general manager of advanced grid solutions, Duquesne Light Company; Jessica Valentine, advanced grid solutions engineer, Duquesne Light Company; and William Thai, principal consultant, Bridgewater Consulting Group Inc

Rapid deployment of distributed energy resources (DERs) and growth of electrified systems has initiated the transformation of electric grids. As the grid evolves from a system with one-way power flow to bidirectional flow with increased electric loads, resulting from new electric infrastructure, innovative solutions and technological advancements will be required. It is essential to upgrade the electric grid using advanced technology that will allow for bidirectional power flow and communication between loads and the electric utility. In conjunction, it is critical to ensure these infrastructure investment projects are implemented equitably, such that all communities have equal access to reliable, clean and affordable power. One viable solution to this challenge is the concept of Smart Electric Energy Districts (SEEDs).

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A SEED, visualized in Fig. 1, is a grid-connected and interactive network of DERs, electrified buildings, building management systems (BMS) and other electrified infrastructure such as electric vehicles. Electrification of infrastructure, which is foundational to SEEDs, reduces overall energy consumption, energy burden and greenhouse gas emissions. On-site renewable energy generation and advanced energy management systems further enhance environmental sustainability and create resilience hubs that are attractive to both residential communities and businesses.

Fig. 1. SEED conceptual illustration

SEEDs provide both community and electric grid benefits, with the potential to provide a variety of use cases, including demand response, energy efficiency, reduced building emissions, improved indoor air quality, reduced energy burden and reduced outage occurrence and duration.

BMSs paired with two-way grid communication allow buildings in SEEDs to participate as grid assets in demand response programs and provide the utility with better oversight of the distribution grid. In addition to electricity market participation, BMSs have the capability to improve building energy efficiency through automated control of building systems like lighting and HVAC. On-site energy generation and storage provide reduced energy costs and operate independently from the electric grid during an outage to provide community resilience. All electric appliances reduce indoor emissions and consume less energy compared to fossil-fueled appliances. Energy efficiency improvements combined with on-site generation, core to SEEDs, help to reduce net energy consumption and energy burden.

Energy burden, or the portion of one’s income spent on energy bills, is, on average, higher for low-income households compared to non-low-income households. Therefore, the deployment of the first SEED pilot projects will be targeted in high energy burden areas of DLC’s service territory, some of which are highlighted in red in Fig. 2.

Fig. 2. Areas in Allegheny County, part of DLC’s service territory, of high energy burden (red) and medium energy burden (orange)

A recent DLC case study explored SEED development at an existing low-income senior living facility in the Pittsburgh region. Case study results reflect that the total net energy consumption can be reduced below the existing net value by incorporating building efficiency improvements and electrifying building loads. In addition, significant drop in CO2 emissions and total energy cost were realized by installing solar PV systems at two locations identified in the case study.

DLC is currently exploring several potential SEED projects in the Pittsburgh region to explore smart grid technologies and enhance resiliency for the electric grid, local communities and the environment.

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Oct 26, 2022

A recent DLC case study explored SEED development at an existing low-income senior living facility in the Pittsburgh region.

I'm curious about the selection of this site as a test case. Is a living facility like this an easy starting point because there are my living there but the controls can be more centralized? Or was this facility simply the most eager to embrace the opportunity for energy cost cutting? 

Elizabeth Cook's picture
Thank Elizabeth for the Post!
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