The project yielded up to 50 percent reduction in short-term peak distribution loads and an average of 15 percent decrease in overall peak loads over the course of one year. PNNL projects that if all customers were engaged in reducing peak loads at this level, peak electricity prices would drop substantially. Furthermore, about $70 billion worth of new construction for generation, transmission, and distribution systems could be avoided over a 20-year period.
PNNL and IBM also gleaned valuable lessons about adjusting the "throttle" of electricity generating stations to meet fluctuating demands. If those adjustments are made on a continual basis, it results in excessive wear and tear on equipment, as well as wasted fuel.
"By setting a limit on demand by purchasing power every five minutes, we found we were able eliminate these fluctuations completely at times," says Pratt. "This is especially important as the U.S. continues to incorporate large amounts of wind resources. Then, we are not only managing changing customer demand but also fluctuating wind resources. Managing the grid is becoming increasingly complex as we add renewables, and smart-grid approaches like this will really help."
Since project completion, energy-use management programs modeled after the Olympic Peninsula Project are being considered for implementation both across the United States and abroad, Pratt says. Meanwhile, IBM is drawing on the results from the project to advise the Obama administration on incorporating smart utility grids into future infrastructure projects that are under consideration.