Grid Modernization FAQs
What is a "smart grid?"
The term “smart grid” – or “digital grid” – refers to the new digital technology Duke Energy and other utilities are adding to substations, power lines and metering to modernize the grid. It also includes new computer systems used to manage all of the new devices. Our grid modernization uses the same digital technology that is used in other industries, like telecommunications. It enables two-way communications between Duke Energy and our customers. Think of it as an energy network that makes it easier for us to prevent and repair outages, helps us read your meter faster and more accurately and gives you simple ways to take control of your energy usage and costs.
How is a modernized grid different from what we've had in the past?
Remember the days when changing the channel on your television meant getting up to manually turn knobs (and likely adjust an antenna) to see one of the limited number of other channels? Since that time televisions have come a long way – remote controls, digital programing guides and recordable programs, video streaming and more! These types of technological advances have begun to occur in energy industry, too.
Today's analog grid is very similar to a television set with its manual operation and limited options. The analog grid was designed nearly a century ago to do one thing – deliver electricity to homes and businesses. It's a massive, dependable machine, but it provides limited information, so there is little automation and interaction.
Digital technology will provide the information and control customers like you need to save energy and money. It will also help us integrate more renewable energy resources, and allow more efficient and reliable electric vehicle charging.
The technology will help bring the energy industry – and your experience as a customer – into the 21st century.
Think about it. In today's digital, highly connected information world, it shouldn't take 30 days for you to get information about how much energy you've used and how much it costs. By then, it's too late to do anything to help lower your energy bill. The digital grid will make near real-time information available to you, which you can use to control your energy use and costs.
What are the benefits of digital grid technology?
Smart, digital technologies – combined with in-home energy management systems, new energy efficiency programs, improved communication tools and customer-sited renewable energy sources like rooftop solar panels – will benefit our customers, our company and the environment.
- Customers will have tools and information to better understand their energy usage and manage their monthly energy bills.
- Smart appliances and plug-in vehicles will be integrated with the power grid.
- We will have more precise information about outages than we have today, which will help us respond faster to restore service.
- We'll be able to detect and solve problems quickly, prevent and shorten outages, and improve service, reliability and power quality for customers.
- Our power delivery system will communicate system-wide to make micro-adjustments, if needed, to balance our energy load and help reduce our need to buy or generate extra, more expensive power to meet customer demand.
Why is Duke Energy modernizing the grid?
The energy industry is poised for a dramatic change. Customer expectations are growing, there are more environmental regulations, and the economy is slumping – but our customers continue to need more and more energy each year. The traditional approach of building new power plants to meet energy demand can no longer be the only option. We have to find ways to improve our service and meet our customers' energy needs in a smart way that has less impact on the environment. Renewable generation and energy efficiency must, and will, play a larger role.
And consumers want more information and control, too. They want reliable and affordable energy that's clean. This requires a unique balancing act.
By deploying digital energy technologies and modernizing our power grid, we can bring Duke Energy into the 21st century, empower you to make wiser energy decisions, and help create a cleaner, lower-carbon and more energy-efficient world.
What is Duke Energy's total investment for grid modernization?
We have allocated $1 billion for deployment efforts in Ohio, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, Indiana and Florida. Deployment includes digital and automated technology such as advanced meters, automated power delivery equipment and communications nodes.
What is the timeline for deploying digital grid technologies?
In 2010, Duke Energy began a full-scale deployment in Cincinnati, Ohio that includes advanced meters, automated power distribution equipment, and a communications network and associated computer systems. We are on track to complete deployment of over 1 million advanced meters and over 100,000 communication nodes to support meter communication in Ohio by 2015.
In the Carolinas, we have projects in progress which will result more than 200,000 advanced meters by 2015. We are evaluating opportunities to deploy to more customers.
In Florida, approximately 80,000 manually-read meters will be replaced as part of a targeted project to upgrade aging components of our EnergyWise® Home residential direct load control program. This effort is part of a project necessary to maintain our direct load control program.
We will continue to work through the regulatory process in Indiana, Kentucky, North Carolina, and South Carolina to finalize our deployment plans in those states.
Digital grid technologies are so new, why does Duke Energy want to move so quickly on this technology?
Digital grid technologies, including the meters, use the same type of digital technology that make cell phones, computers and wireless Internet possible. Digital technology is used every day in our society to make our lives more convenient and productive. Duke Energy is leveraging this technology to offer customers more options, improve reliability and service, and make it possible to incorporate more renewable generation options into the grid.
Is the digital grid really necessary?
This digital technology is laying the groundwork for an energy evolution where information and automation enable customers and companies to work together to keep energy affordable, reliable and clean. It is our obligation to provide our customers with the information and tools necessary for them to best manage their comfort and their costs. This digital technology is the best way to do that.
Deploying this technology costs a lot. Why do you want to impact your customers now, with the economy so strained?
We must make these investments now so we can continue to meet our customers' growing energy needs. In the past, when more energy was needed, utility companies would build new power plants. But things have changed. Today, we have to balance our customers' ever-growing need for safe and reliable electricity with stricter environmental regulations and the responsibility to protect our environment and natural resources. These new digital technologies can help.
Spending money now on these new digital technologies – and energy efficiency projects – can also help us all avoid some of the higher energy costs that would come along with replacing aging power plants while meeting renewable power mandates and new environmental regulations.
Has Duke Energy accepted stimulus funds from the Department of Energy (DOE) for deployment efforts?
We are pleased to have reached an agreement with the DOE to accept $204 million in digital grid stimulus funds. This award will enable us to move forward with the evolution of our power delivery system in the six states we serve. We feel strongly that our grid modernization efforts support the job creation, economic stimulus and energy infrastructure objectives of the Recovery Act and the Smart Grid Investment Grant Program. We expect to put approximately 1,000 people to work over the next few years as we deploy digital grid technologies in the Carolinas, Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana and Florida.
Would digital grid technologies help prevent outages during catastrophic weather events like major hurricanes, or quicken outage response?
Digital technology will significantly improve our response to day-to-day power outages. In some cases, the new equipment can quickly detect and correct trouble on a power line, and isolate and reroute electricity. And since the advanced meter that will be on your home is capable of two-way conversation with computer systems back at Duke Energy, we will know more about outages than we know today, which could help us respond faster to restore service.
For a "100-year storm" such as hurricane Ike or Hugo, digital grid technology would be extremely valuable as we complete restoration efforts – once we have restored the main components of the distribution system and begin to identify and repair isolated outages.
What is a "smart meter?"
Smart meters or "advanced meters" are meters that communicate with the utility through digital connections. Wireless advanced meters – similar to baby monitors, WiFi routers, TV broadcasts, and cell phones – transmit metered information from a customer premise back to Duke Energy using cellular and radio wave communication. Although advanced meters are just one part of a smart grid system, these devices are important in delivering nearly real-time information to our customers. With an advanced meter on your home, combined with supporting energy management programs, you can find out – at any time – how much energy you've used in previous days.
And since the meter is capable of two-way communication back to Duke Energy, we will have more information about outages than we have today, which could help us respond faster to restore service. While we'll have more information about outages, you should continue to call Duke Energy to report a loss of electric or gas service.
What are the benefits of having an advanced meter?
Advanced meters have some immediate benefits:
- Fewer estimated bills
With advanced meters, Duke Energy representatives will no longer need to enter homes to read meters. Occasionally, we may need to have access to the meter for routine maintenance, but we'll let you know before we arrive. And customers who read their own meters will no longer need to submit their monthly meter reading. Having an advanced meter will also significantly reduce the need for us to estimate bills. Your energy bill will reflect your actual usage.
- Faster service
Remote service connections and disconnections will eliminate the need for scheduling appointments, which means faster service when moving or leasing a property to new tenants.
- Greater control of how you use energy
The advanced meter will capture daily energy usage data, which will be available online to customers the next day. Having this information available on a daily basis will help customers make wiser energy decisions and avoid billing surprises at the end of the month.
- Quick response to power outages
Since the advanced meter is capable of two-way conversation with computer systems back at Duke Energy, we will know more about outages than we know today, which could help us respond faster to restore service.
NOTE: Our advanced meters will NOT alert Duke Energy immediately when there is a power outage; customers still must call to report outages.
My new meter was installed a few weeks ago, but I received a card today telling me I would need to read the meter myself and provide the reading. Why?
Before we begin using the remote meter readings for billing purposes, we will continue to gather manual readings to verify that the information we are getting remotely matches the data displayed on the meter. If your meter is inaccessible (e.g., inside your home, inside a locked fence, etc.) you may be asked to read your meter for a few months or until you receive a letter telling you that your meter has been certified operational and the manual reads are no longer necessary.
To read your meter, stand looking at the face of the meter and write down the numbers you see displayed on the digital readout. To submit your reading, log into your Online Services Account. If you do not have an account online, please call 800.544.6900 and select option 4 from the Main Menu, then option 2 to enter your meter reading.
I am on Duke Energy’s EZ Read program. Will I need to continue to provide my monthly readings now that I have the new advanced meter?
You should continue to read your meter each month and provide the readings until you receive a letter stating that your meter is certified operational. Once your meter is certified we will gather your reading remotely. You may continue to receive the EZ Read reminder email, but you may disregard it once you receive the certification letter.
Remote meter reading will eliminate jobs. Are those savings being passed along to customers?
Yes, any savings realized from gains in operational efficiencies and the use of the technology will be passed on to customers.
Some employee positions are affected by the use of the new technology. Duke Energy is working closely with employees to communicate and to make training and opportunities available.
Recently, the DOE awarded Duke Energy $3.5 million for workforce development and training. We are currently developing training plans and programs to equip our existing and new employees to support our grid modernization efforts.
Will I have to get a new advanced meter?
Yes. Duke Energy is moving to advanced meters to benefit our customers and our company. These meters will pave the way for new energy efficiency programs for customers. They also benefit our company, since we will no longer have to manually read meters, saving time and reducing fuel and maintenance costs.
I've been reading a lot about Radio Frequency (RF) exposure from the meters. Why shouldn't I be concerned?
Wireless technology is prevalent in our everyday lives. Everything from cell phones and wireless Internet routers to baby monitors and garage door openers use radio frequency to operate. In most cases, the advanced electric meter Duke Energy is installing uses Power Line Carrier technology to send data from the meter to a communications node mounted a short distance away on an outside transformer. This set-up uses a very low power radio frequency (RF) signal that actually travels along the power line as opposed to through the air.
All of the advanced gas meters Duke Energy is installing use radio frequency to transmit information, however; the exposure from this low power RF signal is well below the exposure limits the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has established for the general public.
Recent studies conducted by the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), Edison Electric Institute (EEI), Association of Edison Illuminating Companies (AEIC) and the Utilities Telecom Association (UTC) conclude that advanced meters pose no health threats.
For more information, read the full report – "A Discussion of Smart Meters and RF Exposure Issues" or visit these websites:
Will an advanced meter give Duke Energy control over the amount of energy I use in my home?
No. Participating in residential energy management and other energy efficiency programs is completely optional. Customers who participate can use the information they receive to manage their energy usage day by day. Or, they can set preferences – a maximum temperature for air conditioning, for instance – and let the system automatically make adjustments based on the cost or availability of energy. Either way, the customer is in complete control and will have the option to override signals or not participate in energy efficiency programs at all.
How will information from the meters be used?
The advanced meters will provide Duke Energy with encrypted kilowatt-hour consumption information at regular intervals for billing and reliability purposes. This information is similar to the data already provided by our current meters and meter reading technology.
I've been reading a lot about the accuracy of advanced meters. What is Duke Energy doing to ensure the new meters are operating correctly?
We are confident in the performance of our vendors and the equipment we are deploying as part of our grid modernization efforts.
The meter make/model we selected underwent a battery of rigorous tests before it was approved for use in the field. The standardized tests are used to measure accuracy during various load and weather conditions. The tests are industry accepted and approved by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI).
Additionally, we have implemented an enhanced testing procedure where we test a percentage of all meters we receive from the vendor prior to installing them at a customer's home or business. In some cases, we test each meter included in a shipment.
And we continue to monitor meter accuracy after installation by conducting routine sample and/or periodic testing. For many years, Duke Energy has used this long-standing method to verify meter integrity.
We also understand that with any vendor or equipment, problems can occur after installation, however. We encourage you to contact us if you ever have questions about the accuracy of your meter or your bill.
How is my information kept private and safe from cyberattacks?
Duke Energy considers our customers' information confidential and does not share nor sell it to other companies. We recognize that emerging technologies – no matter what industry – always opens new avenues of risk. Duke Energy's digital grid components are protected with layers of cyber and physical security.
We employ highly trained and skilled information technology experts who deploy and constantly monitor our system's security. Our company's active relationships with manufacturers and regulators help ensure that we have a broad view of real-time cyber security threats and can respond to them appropriately.
We review security as part of the new technology design process. We include security requirements when procuring new equipment, thoroughly test the new equipment and request upgrades and fixes if problems are identified. Even if security was breached, the ONLY information someone would see is whole-house energy usage, which is the same information that's available today.
Our robust cyber security policies are prudent and help ensure the safety of our power delivery system, including the new digital technologies.
I have one of those transformer boxes in my yard, and I've planted shrubbery to conceal it. Will you need access to that box when you convert to digital technology?
Do I have to wait for digital grid technologies to start being more energy efficient?
No. It will take a few years to fully deploy all of the new digital technology and the benefits it brings. But there are simple things you can do in your home today to save energy and money. For example, you can switch to energy efficient light bulbs and adjust your thermostat by a couple of degrees. Turn off electronics when they aren't in use, and unplug things you aren't using. (Fact: Electronics like cell phone and laptop chargers use energy when they're plugged in – even if you aren't using them.)
We also have a number of resources and programs to help you save energy and money. Visit duke-energy.com/waystosave to:
- Get free CFLs
- Get a free home energy report
- Get a free in-home energy assessment
- Get incentive money to help make home improvements
- Learn more ways to save.
Need more information? A Duke Energy customer service specialist can assist you by phone or email:
Toll Free: 800-544-6900