Time for another look? Signs that conservation voltage reduction will finally take off



Quick Take:  The growing success of a startup focused on conservation voltage reduction (CVR) raises the prospect that CVR will finally come into its own.


CVR and related technologies have been stalled for the last decade for at least two reasons. First, the costs of the necessary sensors was still relatively high. Now that objection has largely gone away due to plunging sensor costs plus the wide availability of communications networks to carry their signals.


Second, CVR reduces the amount of electricity a utility sells. Many utilities, therefore, preferred to send out more electricity than needed rather than be ultra-efficient and see revenues fall. Today, however, some utilities are finding ways to cost-justify the expense, whether to meet energy efficiency targets or to have their own "internal" demand response capability whereby they can cut demand during peak times without bothering customers.


GigaOm tells the story of Utilidata, originally from the Pacific Northwest but now headquartered in Rhode Island. After several reorganizations and management changes, the company recently closed a $20.5 million round of venture financing. I've summarized a few key points below, or jump to the full article. - By Jesse Berst


Utilidata  software analyzes the changes in current and voltage on feeder lines and automatically adjusts the voltage to a level that reduces energy losses. Its software sits at the utility’s operations center, collecting data from sensors that can tell the upper and lower thresholds of the correct voltage levels.


The system automates the voltage regulation process in real time. Algorithms can adjust the voltage levels to be as close as possible to the minimum threshold of 114 volts. The company claims it can achieve a 4% energy savings for every kilowatt-hour of energy that passes through.


Utilidata recently closed a $20.5 million of venture financing. It counts American Electric Power as both a customer and an investor, which may help it persuade other utilities to give it a try. Utilidata also recently inked a deal with National Grid to pilot its software in Rhode Island in 2014.


Jesse Berst is the founder and Chief Analyst of SGN and Chairman of the Smart Cities Council, an industry coalition.


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