Smart Grid is a term that has been used by the US Department of Energy (DOE) to describe its vision for modernizing the national electric grid. The DOE makes a popular comparison - if Alexander Graham Bell were somehow transported to the 21st century, he wouldn't even begin to recognize the modern components of the communications industry he helped to pioneer - smart phones, texting, cell towers, wireless downloads, etc. - while Thomas Edison, one of the grid's early architects, would still be very familiar with the electric system seen today.<br/><br/>
The DOE's vision of a smart grid is one that will feature a robust, integrated network incorporating digital information and two-way communications technology into every aspect of electricity generation, delivery and consumption.
From a practical standpoint, capabilities like communicating with devices on the electric grid, controlling them remotely, configuring them to operate automatically, receiving reports back from them on what they did, and the various computer systems necessary to support these functions, all represent features of an intelligent grid.
In recent years, Ameren has made significant reliability investments that have helped to reduce both outage frequency and duration. We pioneered a number of smart applications ranging from outage analysis systems to remote-controlled line switching to the installation of nearly 2 million automated meters.
Ameren is also investing in technologies that represent new ventures for us, including online diagnostic monitors installed on our largest pieces of grid equipment. This new type of monitoring will not only help us identify and remove equipment before failures occur, but will also extend the operating lives of our largest assets, thus maximizing the benefits of these investments. We're also installing smarter line device controls that will help us fine-tune our system to operate more efficiently, conserve energy and reduce environmental impact.
Transforming our national grid has been compared in significance with building the interstate highway system or developing the internet. These efforts, while revolutionary in their own rights, were preceded by countless evolutionary steps, and as a result, took multiple decades to be fully realized.<br/><br/>
In much the same way, full implementation of the Smart Grid will evolve over a long period of time.
Ameren has one of the most interconnected, robust and intelligent transmission systems in the United States. Our investments in high voltage grid technology allow operators to better monitor grid conditions for greater reliability here in the Midwest. In fact, many of the current upgrades to the distribution grid - where most of our customers are connected - are based on transmission grid technologies we've already proven successful years ago.
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