How does Southern Company know when a squirrel has chewed a line or a tree has knocked one down — before a customer calls? We use a smart grid to quickly identify and remedy electric service problems. A smart grid is an integrated system of smart devices, software and communications channels that functions as a two-way network of data and technology. It enables us to maintain the reliability of our system, reduce costs and provide customers with meter data to help them use energy more efficiently

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Smartgrid is an integrated system of smart devices - located out in the substations and on our lines, both our transmission and distribution lines
- communications, and software that allows us to improve our electric service. This two-way network of data and technology allows us to improve the reliability of the system. Also, allows us to reduce our cost and provides the customer with useful data for them to use our product more efficiently.

We have to send crews out to locate the problems on our lines. And, it can take a long time to find the problem. With the smart devices and the data that we have available, we'll know where the problem is on our line. We'll know where the tree's fallen down, where the squirrel's gotten into a piece of equipment or insulator on our line.

We don't have to send trucks to the field as often. That saves us money. We're not having to put our employees in harm's way as much - out having to ride lines in storms or on ice and that sort of thing.

When the data comes in from the field over the communication lines, it comes back to, typically, a data center with servers. Where, we have software that takes that data, puts it into information. Basically, intelligent useful information that then gets displayed for our control center operators.

This is one of Sourthern Company's distribution control centers. We have operators on duty here 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They monitor the power system, and they can take actions to get the lights back on quicker or to, potentially, identify our problem early and take action to prevent the lights from going out. We've been putting smart devices out on our system for a long time. But, with the advancements in technology, we really have the opportunity to take it to the next level.

This is one of our smart meters that we're installing all over the Southern Electric system. This brings back near real-time data. We don't have to send somebody out anymore to read your meter.

It'll be able to send us information, like when the power's gone out at that location. It will also be able to tell us when the power's come back on in that location. So, we don't have to spend time calling back customers, verifying their lights have come on.

I think the customer benefits in several ways. They benefit by fewer outages, the data will help us identify problems before it causes the lights to go out. It will result in shorter outages, because we'll be able to get the lights back on. And it will be more information for them to make decisions about how they want to use this product.