The Natural Gas Grid – The Other Grid

The natural gas grid has been referred to as “the other grid,” taking the back seat while the electric “smart grid” receives significant attention. Although not in the spotlight – and receiving zero funding from the Obama administration’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) – the gas grid has reason for celebration, due to the industry’s near flawless tenure in safely and reliably delivering natural gas. The electricity grid is the subject of attention because it has not been upgraded in over 100 years and it is showing its antiquated nature through inefficiencies and money lost. In contrast, the gas grid has been extremely reliable, safe, and efficient throughout its tenure. The current demand to update the gas grid is more about reducing utility expenditures, increasing energy conservation, and meeting global climate initiatives and mandates, rather than dealing with failing system integrity issues.

Additionally, as smart meter deployments continue to provide operational, cost, energy efficiency, and awareness benefits to consumers and utilities, gas utilities will begin to approach public utility commissions for gas AMI approval. The first movers in the gas industry will most likely be combination utilities, or combo-utilities, especially those that received funding from the Department of Energy (DOE) to upgrade their electricity business by providing smart meters to their customer base. Combo-utilities are currently updating their electricity networks, by implementing any number of neighborhood area network (NAN) technologies. One example, and a leading technology, is RF Mesh Networks, allowing two-way sending of data from the utility to the electricity meter. Combo-utilities are clearly aware that they can employ sub-metering. This is a process by which a gas module is put on an existing gas meter, sending signals to an electricity meter. In turn, the meter sends a signal containing gas and electricity data to the utility business system. Sub-metering is driving combo-utilities to demand a comprehensive AMI system that is able to interface with the gas AMI system.

Important to note is that Southern California Gas (SoCalGas), a Sempra company, was recently approved by the California Public Utility Commission (CPUC) to implement a $1.05 billion, 5.5 million meter AMI system in Southern California. This decision is groundbreaking in that SoCalGas is the largest gas utility in the United States and is a gas-only utility.

Article by Jevan Fox, appearing courtesy Matter Network

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