AboitizPower rolling out smart grid devices

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Aboitiz Power Corporation has begun rolling out its smart grid devices across its distribution systems with the aim of having self-healing networks in line with the bigger goal of automating the distribution utilities (DUs) it owns.

At a forum last week, AboitizPower COO for distribution Anton Perdices explained that a self-healing network can “switch off certain feeders, reroute power to other feeders, open breakers, etc,” which leaves the operator on standby for manual intervention.

Perdices, in a report by The Philippine Star, even described the solution as “very interesting” and that his company is looking forward to having artificial intelligence powering the distribution system.

Meanwhile, smart meters comprise the biggest part of a smart grid network. Installing the meters entail considerable costs and require regulatory approval.

AboitizPower EVP and COO Jaime Jose Aboitiz describes a smart meter as one capable of two-way communication, but costs between $70 and $100 (Php3,360-4,800), much more expensive than a typical mechanical meter, which costs only Php600.

“So now it becomes an issue of investment, the cost that is going to be put in by distribution utilities to   have a large smart grid. It becomes very expensive and adds substantial cost to the rate base of the utility,” Mr. Aboitiz was quoted as saying in the same report.

For this reason, AboitizPower is slowly rolling out the smart grid devices in its DUs, such as the Visayan Electric Company (VECO) and Davao Light and Power. VECO, the country’s second-largest power distributor, serves most of Metro Cebu; while Davao Light, the third-largest DU, serves Davao City and nearby towns in Davao Del Norte.

“One of the ways to do it is you have to do it in a big bang sort of way. Smart grids are not only smart meters, you can start putting on smart devices that help you determine the health of the network and can even resolve issues in the network,” Mr. Aboitiz further said.

“Smart grid basically means that you’ve got a lot of smart devices not necessarily meters, right but smart devices that are all over connected within the grid and basically tell you instantaneously what is happening around the grid as well,” he added.

Perdices, meanwhile, said among the several initiatives implemented in AboitizPower’s DUs are load breakers, which have auto reclosers, digital substations, and supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems.

The devices have allowed the DUs to “instantaneously switch and reroute our power from one feeder to another to minimize the length and frequency of disruption,” he said.

Perdices even said that the pandemic sped up the smart meters’ installations given that meter readers were at risk from contracting COVID-19 and that the devices allowed remote meter reading.

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