Lewes BPW authorizes first step in modernizing power grid

Initiative could help customers and utility company
March 19, 2023

Imagine being able to pinpoint the time of day when the most amount of power is consumed at a residential address. One could recall the activities they were engaged in and identify what practices may be wasteful as a way to become more energy efficient. 

On Feb. 22, the Lewes Board of Public Works agreed to explore the Advanced Metering Infrastructure Program offered by the partnership of Delaware Municipal Electric Corporation and American Municipal Power Inc. AMP is a joint action agency established in 1971 and serves 133 members across nine states, including each of the three Delmarva states. DEMEC says its responsibility is to prepare communities for the future of increasing solar, electric vehicle and other technologies. The two entities say federal and state legislation is encouraging a modernized grid, and federal money is available to upgrade and increase electric grid resiliency.

Lewes BPW was one of three municipalities, Smyrna and Clayton were the others, reviewing the AMI program. Newark, Milford, Seaford, Middletown, Delmarva Power and Delaware Electric Cooperative have all joined, while New Castle was set to join at the end of February. By joining the partnership, DEMEC/AMP says the utility company will have increased savings due to greater aggregate purchasing for projects, programs and other assets. The cooperation among the different entities will allow each to share information, best practices and educational materials.

A presentation delivered by Scott Lynch, vice president of asset development at DEMEC, explained the system works by installing data collectors for field infrastructure. Gathering feedback from meters and substations, information is collected and sent to a cloud service called UtilityIQ. Data is then delivered to the meter data management system before heading to the billing system. Lynch said the benefits of the system are remote data collection, enhanced customer service, support for emerging needs and data available for use in analysis.

“You’re essentially putting a sensor in at every single point in the field,” Lynch said.

DEMEC/AMP offers awareness and monitoring programs that will identify the type of power infrastructure, location and real-time usage statistics. The AMI program works to provide automated outage notifications, predictive analytics and direct customer notifications. 

By collecting real-time data and providing enhanced communication, the initiative hopes to be able to provide BPW and its customers with detailed information about when power is used and where the power comes from. 

Some of the benefits to the grid, according to Lynch, are improved resilience, cybersecurity support, efficient integration of electric vehicles and implementation of load management programs. Organizational improvements include automated billing, remote reading and operational efficiency. The project will provide varying degrees of support and assist with management. 

BPW board members voted unanimously to join the program, adding a few conditions to be met. The vote authorizes General Manager Austin Calaman to sign a letter of intent with DEMEC to pursue funding options with the understanding that BPW will be provided draft agreements and has the right to withdraw if terms are not amenable. 

The total cost of the program BPW is looking at, with grant funding assistance, is estimated to be $83,000 per year over the next 10 years depending on which options the BPW chooses to add. 

There is a 3% contingency cost built in, and the total financial responsibility of BPW would be about $881,000 for the decade-long contract. The municipal utility is seeking grant funding from the Grid Resilience Innovation Program to help with costs and has a right to withdraw if it does not receive funding. 

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