Chattanooga, TN

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Utilities[edit]

Chattanooga EPB (Electric Power Board) is one of the cities' greatest assets [1]. "It serves 170,000 customers, found that it cut its power outages by at least half, according to Jim Glass, manager of smart grid development at EPB Chattanooga [which installed] 1,200 S&C IntelliRupter automated switches on the distribution grid since early 2011 [on] one of the fastest internet pipelines in the world and a full rollout of smart meters. It is the switches that paid off in the summer storm. The utility had a 55 percent reduction in duration of outages, and the expedited restoration saved EPB Chattanooga $1.4 million."

"This marks a major step in understanding the value proposition for self-healing feeders. To be able to point to $1.4 million dollars in operational savings without the inclusion of social costs will drastically help utilities build business cases for their public utility commissions," said Ben Kellison, smart grid analyst for GTM Research. "However, continued difficulties with ROI calculation will persist for self-healing feeders as utilities often adopt vegetation management in concert with feeder upgrades as part of a reliability program. This leaves it to the statisticians to determine the benefits of chainsaws versus vacuum chambers." Similar experiences were reported in Vermont by VELCO.

There were 58 million avoided minutes of customer interruption -- and most customers were restored about 1.5 days earlier than would have been possible before the smart grid upgrades.

Cable TV/ISP[edit]

Comcast was the dominant cable provider for most areas of the city. The incumbent telephone company is AT&T. However, competing phone companies, cellular phones and VoIP are making inroads. A major interstate fiber optics line operated by AT&T traverses the city, making its way from Atlanta to Cincinnati.

Electricity[edit]

Electric power for most of the city and surrounding area is provided by the city-run Electric Power Board (EPB). EPB is also providing high-speed Internet service, video, and telephone service to business and residential customers throughout Hamilton County.[1] The services that EPB provides to residents and businesses throughout Hamilton County is done via what is the nation's largest municipally owned fiber-optic system.[2][3]

Universal gigabit![edit]

EPB, the public power utility of the city, ran its own fiber optic network (to the entire 6-county area, 600 square miles). In September 2010 it began to offer services directly to the public up to one gigabit per second [2], the fastest such network in the US. EPBfi.com. The network has been emulated by at least six other cities in Tennesee and studied by other US South cities [3][4] and even worldwide. Premier Jay Weatherill of South Australia "looked at the current gigabit network that was supporting critical city safety functions such as police and fire communications infrastructure, equipment and applications. He also inspected wastewater management, storm water management, traffic control and medical diagnostics applications [and] first-hand operations of a smart lighting and camera system that allows the police to control public lighting and see what is happening in heavy crime areas. The use of broadband to carry the video and control signaling has contributed to making Chattanooga’s Coolidge Park a safer place to visit." [5]

In 2011 the expansion of EPB's network became a subject of major controversy in Tennessee [6]. The success of its network [7], often credited with expansion of Volkswagen and Amazon.com facilities [8], caused a number of legal challenges by AT&T and Comcast, insisting that public funds not be used to fund expansion of public networks in competition with private ones. However, according to EPB itself [9], federal agencies [10] [11], electricity industry trade sources [12][13] and other press [14] the investment in the fully fibre optic network is justified by electrical system benefits alone, including decreases in standby power and early fault detection.

One of three best networks in the USA[edit]

Chattanooga, TN is one of several communities where public power districts deployed gigabit. Most notable [15] [16] [17] is Chattanooga which along with Bristol, Virginia and Lafayette, Louisiana were first to build gigabit fibre networks via their public power districts [18]. EPB [19] and its affiliate EPBfi [20] have also publicized, with vendor Alcatel-Lucent, what it's like to live in a "smart city" [21].

Fraud by cable industry[edit]

This success has attracted cable lobbyist fraud campaigns, which Chattanooga has effectively refuted [22]. Among their claims are that electric operations don't require this connectivity. In reality, though, EPB's main motive and funding rationale was to improve power grid functions to smart grid level. Electric Energy Online, a trade journal, listed these "advantages":

Network leverages EPB’s fiber-optic investment for triple play media and enhanced Smart Grid functionality
One of the first cities to implement municipally-owned 100% fiber-optic network; economic driver for the region and opportunity to improve energy efficiency
Fiber-optic network supports simultaneous upload and download of up to 1 Gigabit
Fast, low cost deployment of 1500 smart meters per week; self-configuring, selfhealing network streamlines smart meter implementation and subsequent upgrades
Helps industry become more efficient; TOU pricing expected to result in savings of $2.3 million a year for 22 manufacturers involved in time-of-use rate pilot
Anticipates 40% in outage reductions resulting from improved distribution system management and intelligent switch technology
Easy scalability; can support communications with the millions of data points expected to be on the network by 2012, including meters, demand response devices (i.e., smart thermostats & load control devices), distribution equipment and smart appliances -[23]

In February 2015 the frauds were recognized by the US FCC which ruled that TN laws authored by the fraudster cable industry, notably Comcast, could not stand, and that the EPB was free to expand its network. [24]

Power interruption frequency down 45%, duration down 21%[edit]

"Under blue-sky conditions in 2013 -- the first year in which EPB had full system automation -- the utility decreased its System Average Interruption Duration Index (SAIDI) figure by 21 percent from the previous year. The System Average Interruption Frequency Index (SAIFI) decreased by more than 45 percent compared to 2012."[25]

The important power aspects of the project had been completed in 2012.

the City's last IntelliRuptor, or "smart switch," will be installed on April 24th. No wonder EPB was named one of The Networked Grid - Top Ten Utility Smart Grid Deployments in North America by Greentech Media. EPB also received a special award for Best Distribution Automation, thanks to its fiber-optic network. EPB and Chattanooga have been similarly recognized in the past.
Quickly locating and localizing power outages will continue to limit power loss which will save tens of millions of dollars each year. According to Harold DePriest, CEO of EPB, "Nobody has applied them (IntelliRuptors) in the numbers we've applied them." A tornado on March 2nd tested the new system and, while 3,470 customers lost power, estimates are that the number would have been double without the use of the smart switches. Smart meters are also being installed, allowing customer usage data sent to the utility, which means that EPB will immediately know who has power and who does not in the aftermath of storms.
EPB saved about 5 million customer minutes in 2011 with half of the switches installed and half of installed switches set up to function automatically. EPB estimates and annual saving of up to $40 million to $45 million for businesses, and between $6 million and $7 million in savings for the utility because of fewer and limited outages. - [26]

[edit]

The project paid off its debt early:

Chattanooga's EPBFi community fiber network has been one of the most celebrated muni networks in the nation. They were the first to offer a gigabit to anyone in the city and have launched a bounty for geeks that relocate to the "Gig City."
They have connected 35,000 subscribers to the network, blowing away their original goal of 26,000 by the third year. They have attracted thousands of new jobs that would not have materialized if they simply accepted the AT&T/Comcast duopoly for their community. [Editor's note: That includes LED lighting [27] and Volkswagen.]
At the current rate, EPB can shave seven years off the time it will take to pay off its telecom debt, becoming virtually debt-free by 2020 instead of 2027 as projected, Eaves [EPB CFO] said.
Even so, the government utility still is spending money to sign up new customers, a process that will increase debt until 2013, Eaves said.
The utility has $51 million in total debt so far, but it only needs 30,000 customers to break even on operational costs, Eaves said.'
"We are currently cash- flow positive from an operations standpoint, but still increasing debt to fund the capital associated with signing up new customers," he said. -[[28]

Influence on others[edit]

EPB's strategy was widely emulated within Tennessee and elsewhere (notably Milwaukee [29].

Australian view[edit]

"Premier Jay Weatherill of South Australia made Chattanooga one of the high points of his trip to the United States." He "looked at the current gigabit network that was supporting critical city safety functions such as police and fire communications infrastructure, equipment and applications. He also inspected wastewater management, storm water management, traffic control and medical diagnostics applications."

Premier Weatherill commented “Chattanooga is an example of what a city can achieve if government and businesses are willing to solve problems through broadband technology. After a history of being known for its pollution, the manufacturing city of Chattanooga has reinvented itself as a hub for high-tech and advanced manufacturing.” He sited a Volkswagen assembly plant in Chattanooga that demonstrates this use of broadband technology.

Premier Weatherill also had the opportunity to see first-hand operations of a smart lighting and camera system that allows the police to control public lighting and see what is happening in heavy crime areas. The use of broadband to carry the video and control signaling has contributed to making Chattanooga’s Coolidge Park a safer place to visit.

Upon seeing all of the great applications utilizing broadband, Premier Weatherill commented “I intend to build a connection between Adelaide and Chattanooga and investigate how we can learn from the city’s innovation in these areas.”

If you look closely at the utility poles in the background of this picture of the Chattanooga Choo Choo (from Wikipedia) , it looks like there are wireless broadband antennas positioned there." [30]


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