Oklahoma Gas and Electric Co. agreed to provide additional information about its smart grid program to state regulators as part of the settlement agreement that ended its rate case this week, but officials don't expect much new to come to light.
The company, which serves about 729,000 customers as Oklahoma's largest utility, already provides regular progress reports to the Oklahoma Corporation Commission, which regulates state utilities.
The reporting requirement in the settlement agreement approved by regulators this week merely formalizes what OG&E already has been doing at the request of commission staff, said Brandy Wreath, acting director of the agency's public utility division.
AARP Oklahoma had pushed for the requirement during settlement talks.
Craig Davis, the consumer advocacy group's associate state director, said the July 2010 order that allowed OG&E to expand the smart grid program statewide did not include any specific reporting or tracking requirements, even though the company had promised a full accounting of the $366 million program and its benefits.
Davis said the new requirement will ensure OG&E customers receive all of the benefits they originally were promised.
Ken Grant, managing director of OG&E's smart grid program, said the company guaranteed it would save $22 million in operational costs over three years with the new technology, so it agreed to subtract that amount from its revenue from customers through next year.
“We are achieving those savings,” Grant said. “We are on track through 2012.”
Tracking true costs
OG&E has installed more than 660,000 smart meters in Oklahoma, leaving the company on pace to finish the program by the end of the year.
Grant said that information and more has been reported informally to the commission since OG&E's smart grid program began, but language in the recent rate case settlement makes it a requirement.
The settlement brings Oklahoma's reporting requirements in line with what the company agreed to share with the Arkansas Public Service Commission when the smart grid was expanded there.
Grant said OG&E has provided regular updates to the commission, with additional updates if requested.
“We report everything to the commission,” he said. “We can slice and dice our numbers any way they want us to.”
Wreath said he gets a detailed report from OG&E each month that is delivered to the elected commissioners at their monthly update meeting.
He said that information includes what is now required of the company because of the settlement in its rate case.
Once OG&E's smart grid rider expires at the end of 2013, the company's reports will help regulators catalog the true costs of implementing the new technology, Wreath said.
Grant said OG&E typically submits a three-page document of smart grid statistics to the corporation commission each month.
That format was requested by commission staff.
OG&E, which has customers in Arkansas, also provides a spreadsheet to regulators there.
Grant said he's not sure what form the newly required report will take in Oklahoma, but he expects it to be available to customers as a public document.
He said the report will include a lot of financial information about the program, including cost reduction measures such as “avoided truck rolls.”
Fewer trucks go out
The increased automation of OG&E's electrical system allowed by smart meters means the company no longer has to dispatch a truck to disconnect service or check meter readings.
Through May, OG&E has avoided sending more than 370,000 trucks on site, according to company records.
Grant said that means OG&E has been able to get by with fewer trucks while reducing its maintenance costs and vehicle emissions.
“I think that's one that everyone can get their head around,” he said. “It's a huge savings.”