Advancing Smart Cities – Making Our Region More Sustainable and More Efficient
Throughout our region and the world, momentum is building to create cities that leverage intelligent technologies, big data, as well as private and public partnerships to enhance efficiency, sustainability, climate resiliency, and ultimately, quality of life. This movement is called the “Smart Cities” movement.
SDG&E and the San Diego region are leaders in this area. Our company is a founding member of Smart Cities San Diego. The collaborative was created in 2011 to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, advance energy innovations, promote electric vehicles, and encourage economic growth.
Over the past seven years, we have actively engaged with a growing number of public agencies, startups, equipment makers, non-profits, peer utilities, and academic institutions to implement or jumpstart a variety of projects in renewable energy, clean transportation (including vehicle-to-grid technology), energy storage, smart grid/smart meters, smart homes, and wildfire safety.
While definitions vary on what a Smart City is, there is significant overlap between the values embraced by Smart City advocates, and the values we as a company embrace. We are committed to becoming the cleanest, safest and most reliable energy company in America. To get us there, we have been investing heavily in advanced technologies and infrastructure that cross over with what cities need to become smarter.
Smart Cities are powered by a growing amount of clean energy that comes straight from the wind and sun – without the pollution that’s associated with traditional energy sources.
Currently, around 40% of the energy SDG&E delivers to homes and businesses in our service territory in San Diego and Southern Orange counties comes from renewable sources, such as solar and wind – far ahead of California’s mandate of 33% by 2020. In fact, we met the 33% Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) five years ahead of schedule, and we are well on our way to achieve the 50% RPS by 2030. There is no coal contracts in our energy portfolio.
In addition, SDG&E has interconnected nearly 900 MW of private rooftop and commercial solar to the grid. Our employees invented a patented device called the Renewable Meter Adapter to make it easier, safer, and less expensive for homeowners to add solar.
Zero-emission transportation is a hallmark of any Smart City, so we are working aggressively to expand the electric vehicle charging infrastructure to all segments of the market: residential, commercial, industrial, and public.
Building on the success of Power Your Drive – a pilot program to install electric vehicle chargers at apartments, condo complexes and workplaces – we are now working to bring chargers to Park & Ride lots, delivery fleets, shuttle services, the Port of San Diego, and the San Diego International Airport.
Currently, we have more than 100 MW of energy storage connected to the grid, including North America’s largest lithium-ion battery storage facility. And we have plans to add another 166 MW of storage to provide backup power to critical public safety facilities, including police and fire stations and emergency operations centers.
Energy storage facilities soak up electrons when there is an abundance of energy on the gird, such as mid-day when the sun is shining. After the sun has gone down and demand ramps up, these facilities release energy. Storage also plays a critical role in stabilizing the grid by helping to address the intermittency issues associated with renewable energy.
We built the foundation for a smart grid by deploying smart meters a decade ago. This two-way communication allows customers to monitor and manage their energy use in near real time. In 2018, we will begin to upgrade the communications network for our smart meters from a 3-G network to a 4-G network. This upgrade will enable us to transform our meter infrastructure from a single-purpose platform into a multi-purpose platform that’s capable of transmitting data for third parties. For example, a water agency can install smart water meters and transmit real-time usage data via our network to help with water leak detection.
To improve energy reliability in a desert community that’s susceptible to power outages because of extreme weather and its remote location, we built one of the first large, utility-scale microgrids in America — the Borrego Springs Microgrid. The microgrid is connected to a nearby 26-MW solar project and two backup generators.
This combination of resources, along with on-site battery storage, means the microgrid can disconnect from the regional grid and operate independently during emergencies.
Weather and Fire Forecast Technologies
A Smart City is adapted to mitigate the wildfire and weather risks associated with climate change. Over the past decade, we have made substantial investments in advanced weather and fire forecast technologies to enhance our situational awareness and emergency response. We operate a network of 170 weather stations – the largest private utility-owned weather network in the world. In addition, we have installed a network of high-definition, live-streaming video cameras on local mountaintops to provide early fire detection.
Energy Innovation Center
Smart Cities are filled with smart homes and businesses that maximize energy efficiency, water conservation, comfort and convenience with the latest technologies. The SDG&E Energy Innovation Center is where residents and businesses can come and learn about the latest technologies. The center features a Smart Home, where voice commands can be used to manage lighting, air conditioning, a door lock, and other functions.
Integrated Test Facility
At the SDG&E Integrated Test Facility, engineers test, evaluate and ultimately adopt cutting-edge technologies – such as smart thermostats, meters, rooftop solar inverters and electric vehicle chargers – that are essential to make a Smart City work.