Chattanooga's EPB works with Bell Labs to enhance smart grid network

Chattanooga, Tenn. utility EPB caught the hearts and minds of the broadband delivery world last year when it debuted its 1 Gbps Fiber to the Home (FTTH) service, but now it's going to leverage that network to help its customers better manage their energy consumption.

Already delivering broadband services over its GPON network to 170,000 homes thanks to Bell Labs' parent Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU), EPB is using that same network to monitor its electric network with sensors and control devices throughout its electric grid.

Monitoring is a key element of the work EPB is doing with Bell Labs. The new capabilities will enable EPB to better detect and fix issues in their distribution grid in addition to helping the utility manage the power it buys from energy supplier Tennessee Valley Authority during peak and off hours.

What this means is EPB can then detect problems in the electric grid before the customer knows there's an issue and save on the amount of power it buys and provide lower cost services to consumers.

EPB is collaborating with Bell Labs to develop new analytical techniques and tools to help it gather more information from not only the smart meters it has deployed, but also Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) systems and other data to help reduce electric service outages. The utility claims that this will enable EPB's customers manage energy costs, manage power consumption during peak consumption periods, and improve operational efficiencies.

"Our Smart Grid is intended to not only provide customers the ability to better manage their energy use, but also alert us, and the user, in real time to any spikes in usage, so that immediate action can be taken if there is a problem within a home or business," said Harold DePriest, President and CEO of EPB. "To do that, we need to be able to analyze the network at far greater levels of detail than has been possible before."

While they are an early smart grid adopter, other larger and municipal-run utilities could look to EPB as a case study on how they could build out their own smart grid network.   

For more:
- see the release

Industry Voices: Smart technology initiatives could save $20.4B by 2030

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