Our Emerging Technologies team helps us live our mission to be a forward-thinking electric utility, positioned for investments in technologies that collectively represent a path toward becoming the utility of the future. The team is dedicated to exploring and researching potential new technologies; understanding our legislative and regulatory environment; developing policy positions that support the best interests of our company and customers; and implementing technologies that our customers want. We are particularly engaged in conversations regarding electrification, smart cities, alternative generation and microgrids, and energy management services.
As we continue to prepare our distribution system for new technologies, we work with our stakeholders to understand which investments are most valuable to the electric system and our customers. In addition, we continually explore new opportunities to help our customers use energy more efficiently. To shape these efforts, we developed an Emerging Technologies Roadmap guided by legislative and regulatory policies that sets our direction as we focus on key technologies over the next five years.
The Emerging Technologies team is responsible for developing the corporate strategy for new technologies in the electric utility industry, including electrification, distributed energy resources and grid modernization. As part of that responsibility, our team monitors and develops strategies pertaining to federal and state policies that drive the development of these technologies. We work with internal and external stakeholders to facilitate an open dialogue on changing market conditions and appropriate measures required to provide high-quality service for our customers.
We educate and advance our position on legislative and regulatory proposals that shape FirstEnergy’s future. For example, we supported legislation in Maryland that allows investor-owned electric companies to develop energy storage pilot projects. We are evaluating an energy storage pilot for approval by the Public Service Commission of Maryland (PSC).
Innovation Hub Attracting New IdeasFirstEnergy’s Transmission and Construction & Design Services organizations are driving innovation by engaging employees in brainstorming activities through the development of an internal website—the Innovation Hub. This website is the front end of a new process developed to collect, analyze and prioritize fresh ideas that support our transmission portfolio, enhance our sustainability efforts and deliver the best value to our customers.
FirstEnergy’s Transmission and Construction & Design Services organizations are driving innovation by engaging employees in brainstorming activities through the development of an internal website—the Innovation Hub. This website is the front end of a new process developed to collect, analyze and prioritize fresh ideas that support our transmission portfolio, enhance our sustainability efforts and deliver the best value to our customers.
We recognize that innovation drives growth, so we recently invested in Energy Impact Partners, a venture fund focused on the transformation of the utility industry. In doing so, we joined a coalition of leading energy companies in the development of emerging industry solutions and close-to-market utility technologies. Our participation provides insight into future industry trends and opportunities, as well as exposure to innovative technologies that can benefit our customers, company and the environment.
We also commit to research that evaluates the impact of emerging technologies on the electric grid. We stay informed of the latest research through active memberships in research organizations, including the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), and collaboration with universities. We also partner with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and industry experts to guide our modernization efforts. Our work with EPRI and DOE helped us develop and refresh our Grid Modernization Roadmap, which identifies emerging distribution platform capabilities that enable higher reliability, resiliency and energy resource integration and utilization.
FirstEnergy works with universities through consortiums and direct research projects. For example, we have partnered with Case Western Reserve’s Great Lakes Energy Institute (GLEI) on multiple energy storage and grid integration projects and serve on the GLEI Advisory Board. GLEI is focused on the transition to advanced sustainable energy generation, storage, distribution and utilization through coordinated research, development and education. Emerging Technology team members also serve on the University of Toledo’s Technical Advisor Committee for a building-grid integration project that is developing technologies to scale transactive controls and coordination in commercial buildings. The project is funded by the DOE’s Building Technologies Office and Office of Electricity as part of their Transactive Controls Portfolio.
EPRI explores science and technology and conducts early-stage research to maintain a full pipeline of promising concepts and emerging breakthroughs. As a member of EPRI, FirstEnergy has won several awards for applying the institute’s research, and we leverage its resources to quickly implement new technology in pilot programs. Many of the projects implemented by our Emerging Technologies team are a result of our EPRI membership.
We are working to leverage emerging technologies and innovations that can deliver customer-focused service enhancements while making the environment better through emissions reductions and energy efficiency improvements. Our Emerging Technologies Roadmap is our foundational action plan for bringing new ideas to life. The roadmap consists of five programs and is rooted in our larger effort to enable the grid of the future.
We are enhancing our existing distribution platform, deploying smart grid technology to increase reliability and decrease our greenhouse gas emissions. Key initiatives include:
In Pennsylvania, our Met-Ed, Penelec, Penn Power and West Penn Power utilities installed smart meters for more than 2 million customers as part of a state-mandated Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) deployment plan. We expect to complete deployment of these devices for all customers in 2020. Smart meters have the potential to eliminate the need for estimated readings, which helps our customers make more informed decisions about their energy usage. In the future, these devices may help us detect power outages and restore service more quickly and efficiently, as well as decrease our greenhouse gas emissions by reducing the number of miles driven by meter readers. In 2018, we reported to the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) an estimated reduction in greenhouse gas emissions of 370 metric tons of CO2 equivalent.
Our three Ohio utilities—Ohio Edison, The Illuminating Company and Toledo Edison—reached an agreement with the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) that includes phase-one capital investments in grid modernization of up to $516 million over three years. This includes deploying 700,000 smart meters; installing distribution automation equipment on at least 200 distribution circuits; adding voltage-regulating equipment on at least 200 circuits to provide energy efficiency benefits; and implementing an Advanced Distribution Management System. These upgrades will enhance customer reliability by reducing the frequency and duration of outages and decrease our greenhouse gas emissions by minimizing the need to dispatch utility trucks.
We encourage the use of electricity for transportation, appliances and commercial equipment by efficiently preparing our grid to support electrification. We also make our customers aware of available conversion funding and continually explore how we could more equitably and efficiently provide electric vehicle (EV) charging equipment.
To support Maryland’s goal to have 300,000 zero-emission vehicles on the road by 2025, Potomac Edison is participating in a pilot program to expand the availability of EV charging stations. As part of this effort, Potomac Edison is installing up to 59 utility-owned public charging stations, including up to 20 “fast-chargers” throughout its Maryland service area. Residential customers will be eligible for rebates up to $300 for the purchase and installation of EV charging stations at their home. Multi-unit dwelling property owners can get a rebate for 50% of the cost of purchase and installation—up to $5,000—for qualified EV charging stations, including Level 2 and Direct Current Fast Charger stations. Our expertise at building electric infrastructure will help position Maryland as a leader in EV technology. This pilot will allow Potomac Edison to gain knowledge about EV charging patterns and impacts to its distribution system in preparation for continued growth in the number of electric vehicles and charging stations.
We are partnering with EPRI to conduct a state-level assessment of expanded efficient electrification for Ohio. The project will identify cost-effective and resilient solutions to produce and use clean energy. Our goal is to understand the impact of efficient electrification by analyzing how a state’s energy system could evolve over time, under various policies and across multiple end-use sectors. We will also conduct a comprehensive customer and societal assessment of electrification technologies to develop stakeholder acceptance.
In Pennsylvania, our Met-Ed, Penelec, Penn Power and West Penn Power utilities installed smart meters for more than 2 million customers as part of a state-mandated Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) deployment plan. Smart meters have the potential to eliminate the need for estimated readings, which helps our customers make more informed decisions about their energy usage.
Many of the communities we serve are learning how Smart Cities initiatives can improve their citizens’ quality of life by helping municipalities operate more efficiently, lower their carbon footprint and enhance community safety. We work with our communities to improve their operations by upgrading their streetlights to be more cost-effective and energy-efficient.
The most cost-effective way to bring renewable energy to our customers is to leverage the economies and efficiencies provided by utility-scale options. We are investigating the value of microgrids to find out how they can provide customers with the resiliency they need.
In New Jersey, the Board of Public Utilities’ (BPU) Town Center Distributed Energy Resource (TCDER) Microgrid Feasibility Study incentive program is funding feasibility studies for proposed microgrids and intends for results to inform a statewide microgrid policy. The BPU approved 13 applications in Phase 1, including two from Jersey Central Power & Light (JCP&L) for the Neptune and Middletown areas of the service territory. The BPU has completed review of the Phase 1 studies and is developing a Phase 2 of the TCDER microgrid incentive program.
We have partnered with EPRI to conduct a feasibility study at the Youngstown Airport to help us understand how microgrids can be efficiently integrated with our electric system to enhance resiliency and offer CO2 reduction opportunities for customers.
We know our customers want more control over their energy consumption. We offer energy efficiency and load reduction programs and continue to explore how, in a world with data at our fingertips, we can provide customers with meaningful insights to help manage their energy use.
We continue to be active throughout our utility service area in the research, development and deployment of AMI and other web- and application-based tools that provide customers with data to better manage their electricity usage and lower their carbon footprint.