Member newsletter for Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative

Building a smarter grid

The centralized model of delivering electric supply has served as the standard
in the United States for many decades. In this model, power is generated at
a large-scale facility, and then transported over transmission and distribution
lines through substations and switching stations until it reaches the end
user. The possibilities for the electric grid of the 21st century are shifting as
more people are choosing sustainable energy options, such as rooftop solar,
electric vehicles, and battery storage systems. As costs decrease and the
trend toward localized sustainable energy generation accelerates, electric
grids will become less dependent on centralized power plants, paving the
way for decentralized electrification.

One pillar from SMECO’s 2023–2027 Strategic Plan focuses on building a
smarter grid that is ready and able to function with these shifts toward
more decentralized electrification. In addition to improving current grid
reliability and resiliency, this pillar includes plans to enhance our integration
and support of distributed energy resources (DERs). Rooftop solar is one
of the most recognizable DERs, but anything plugged into the grid on the
customer’s side of the meter that can supply electricity back into the grid is
a DER. This can include demand response assets, electric vehicle chargers,
energy storage, and backup generators.

Your cooperative currently works with members to install their choice of
DER, as allowed under Maryland Public Service Commission regulations. We
strive to complete interconnection requests within 24 hours. In addition to
our interconnection assistance, SMECO is working to implement systems
that provide better management of installed DERs to ensure reliability, safety,
security, and grid optimization.

Many projects under this pillar support our goals for DER installation and
monitoring, including:

  • Upgrade to the next-generation geospatial information system (GIS)
  • Implement a distribution management system with distribution
    automation and a robust telecommunications network to connect them.

As part of building a smarter grid, SMECO is also gradually moving to LED
energy-efficient streetlights