"CUSTOMERS UNDERSTAND THAT WE ARE NOW IN AN evolution," insisted Bruce Germano, vice president of retail service for Long Island Power Authority (LIPA). "When people are thinking green, they are thinking globally - in energy, water and everything they do. And people are thinking more about renewables to recognize the long-term value."
And Germano would know. Previously serving as chairman of the Electric Power Research Institute's IntelliGrid program's steering committee, Germano is responsible for LIPA's customer business - one that includes serving more than 1.1 million customers and managing staff working on a long-term and short-term technology strategy for a smarter grid.
THE TECHNOLOGY COMPONENT
Because of the work that LIPA - the third largest public power utility in the United States - has done with IntelliGrid, two of the counties it serves are now poised to install advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) in commercial and residential markets to test the effectiveness of using pilots. LIPA anticipates moving towards a multi-year, full-scale AMI deployment in the next two to three years.
THE RENEWABLE CONNECTION
These new technologies will be part of a smarter grid and will ____ enable consumers to have more control over the energy they use and be more self-sufficient.
"When you look at interactive standards, like advanced metering, the ability to take energy efficiency measures is much more robust because it can exemplify the value of those measures," said Germano. "We see the smart grid as an enabler to mature [the electricity] system and an effort to make more advanced renewables like wind, photovoltaic solar and plug-in hybrids."
Basically, "the smart grid allows us to be able to send pricing signals and allows [consumers] to have a choice and to plug in renewable resources and manage energy efficiency," he said.
In particular, Germano said businesses have been especially apt to make sweeping changes in the way they use energy. "Food and supermarket chains have invested millions to look at their portfolios and make massive changes in a short time because of advantages associated with that."
This is the reason LIPA has opened net metering to its commercial consumers. Net metering enables residents and businesses to reap the benefits of generating their own electricity with solar or wind power by receiving full credit for their generation and an option to sell the excess power they produce back to LIPA.
"We have a solicitation for a 50-MW solar plant on Long Island and are now in joint studies for an offshore wind farm to serve Long Island and the New York City area," Germano said. "We see renewables as a big component of business going forward and consistent with the governor's efforts to promote renewables in the state."
Germano believes that business will go forward despite a troubled economy. LIPA plans to spend $53 million in 2009 on renewable energy and energy efficiency programs.
"This budget represents a continuation of our current levels of investment in energy efficiency and a budget increase of 75 percent for renewable technologies from the previous year," he said.
A shift in attitude among many of LIPA's consumers has led to investment, Germano said. Although LIPA has been investing in energy efficiency for more than 20 years, customer willingness to try out new things has heightened more recently.
"That was a bit of a surprise for me because I always felt in the early stages that customers were not oriented to non-prudent technologies," he said.
THE LEADERSHIP BACKING
Leadership by New York's governor on the matter - especially since the state passed a renewable portfolio standard with a goal of having 25 percent of all energy used by consumers come from renewable sources by 2013 - as well as by Kevin Law, LIPA's president and chief executive officer, have been particularly important to the future of the smart grid and the deployment of more renewable energy in LIPA's service area, explained Germano.
"It really starts from top down. And Kevin Law is a strong proponent and has been a guiding force in the right direction," professed Germano.