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updated: 12/19/2011 5:30 AM

Pro: Smart grid provides more efficient and cost-effective electric service

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  • Mark Curran

      Mark Curran

 
By Mark Curran

For more than two decades, the city of Naperville's municipally owned electric utility has operated under a continuous improvement model to provide customers with reliable, effective electric service. The Naperville Smart Grid Initiative is an innovative and important component of the ongoing process to upgrade the utility using digital technology.

The NSGI is an upgrade of the city's $360 million electric network to provide more efficient, cost-effective and reliable service to customers and empower them with more information on their energy usage.

Much like online banking, cable service or mobile phone service, the NSGI will provide customers with different options. Rather than having to wait until the end of the month to receive an electric bill to view usage, customers will have the opportunity to go online and check consumption each day and also have options on sticking to a flat rate or choosing a time-of-use rate similar to different types of checking/savings accounts, cellphone packages and cable service packages.

Customers will always have the choice to select the rate option that best suits their lifestyle; the city will never force customers to select one rate option or ration power.

This $22 million project is funded partly by an $11 million federal matching grant through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. To pay for the city's portion of the project, the city is using the electric utility's enterprise fund. No property tax dollars are being used for this project, and the NSGI will not increase electric rates or raise taxes.

Throughout the project, the city has taken customers' concerns into account and created safeguards to guarantee privacy and data security. The Naperville City Council directed staff to prepare the NSGI Customer Bill of Rights, which guarantees customers' rights to be informed, privacy, options and data security. This document is now part of the city's Municipal Code.

The Bill of Rights is also the basis for the Customer Privacy and Advocacy Handbook, a document that details steps the utility will take to protect customers' privacy and personal information.

The NSGI also includes a stringent cybersecurity plan that has undergone extensive review and approval by cyber security experts in the federal government. As an added security measure, the city will engage an independent cyber security expert to conduct an audit of the NSGI cyber security design and implementation.

As a response to customers' health concerns, the city conducted its own radio frequency emissions testing on the NSGI smart meters using the same device commonly used in Federal Communications Commission compliance testing. The test found the NSGI smart meter and related equipment emitted RF power densities well below FCC guidelines.

The NSGI is a forward-thinking project that will provide lasting, positive effects for our customers and community. Between paving the way for a cleaner environment and electric vehicles, the improvements made will provide more choices and options for our customers in managing their energy use and provide area students with a practical tool to learn about energy consumption and conservation and gain firsthand experience on emerging technologies and future careers.

For more information on the NSGI, including an inventory of all customer questions and responses about the project, visit naperville.il.us/smartgrid.aspx.

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