SAN FRANCISCO — As part of its work to build a stronger, more resilient energy grid for the hometowns it serves, PG&E successfully developed a first-of-its-kind personal microgrid backup power transfer meter device for customers that fully integrates into PG&E’s existing electric SmartMeter system. The device provides customers with a more reliable solution for interconnecting backup power sources, such as portable generators or batteries, to power essential devices and appliances during a power outage.
Customers in High Fire-Threat Districts (HFTD) as defined by the California Public Utilities Commission who have been issued a rebate for a qualified backup generator through the Generator Rebate Program are eligible to receive a backup power transfer meter device and have it installed by PG&E, free of charge. The device comes with a universal adapter allowing customers to safely connect off-the-shelf backup power sources as needed, helping PG&E’s most vulnerable customers safely and easily attach auxiliary power to their homes.
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Customers are encouraged to visit pge.com/transfermeter to confirm eligibility and request a backup power transfer meter.
“Our customers count on electricity to provide basic and critical needs during power outages including lighting, internet, communications, refrigeration, and charging and operating medical devices. We know that using extension cords with a portable generator is not the most practical solution, and that the cost of purchasing and installing a transfer switch can be prohibitive—in the thousands of dollars. That’s why we created this new backup power transfer meter technology to help our customers maximize connectivity of their backup power source to their home — in a simple fashion — through their electric meter and electrical panel,” said Vincent Davis, Vice President, Customer Operations & Enablement, PG&E.
Developing the Backup Power Transfer Meter
PG&E’s SmartMeter program team, in consultation with industry partners, designed and built a prototype device from scratch in 2020. The product went through rigorous safety and reliability testing at PG&E’s Applied Technology Services lab and through a third-party testing lab, Exponent.
PG&E concurrently identified hundreds of customers who would potentially be eligible for a meter upgrade to include the device, based on their enrollment in PG&E’s Generator Rebate Program.
In early 2021, following successful lab testing and customer outreach, PG&E began deploying the new devices to customer sites.
“As the environment in which the grid operates continues to evolve, developing and implementing the backup power transfer meter device is one way we are innovating to help our customers — and electric customers around the country — take control of their energy usage and costs. Our customers who live and work in areas of high fire threat and frequently experience extreme weather conditions can now better power essential appliances, devices, equipment and services at home or at their small business and be assured that their personal microgrid is resilient,” said Davis.
How Installation Works
After customers order the device, PG&E will schedule a time and date for installation. As part of the installation appointment, a PG&E representative will train and advise each customer on how to safely operate a backup power source using the device during a broader planned or unplanned power outage. Safely connecting a qualified portable generator to a backup power transfer meter device follows an easy-to-understand, six-step process as illustrated in PG&E’s installation guide.
The device provides PG&E grid operators with visibility into when a customer switches their power source to backup generation, and the device will automatically and safely switch the customer back to PG&E grid power when the outage is resolved, and grid power is restored.
Plans for Expansion
PG&E has installed more than 100 backup power transfer meter devices for eligible customers and anticipates installing thousands more in 2022. The company also plans to make the technology available to utilities throughout the United States as a resource to help as many potentially vulnerable electric customers as possible.
PG&E recently applied for a United States Patent for this backup power transfer meter technology, which the company expects will be approved by 2023. The company owns a variety of patents that apply to smart energy metering, electrical grid systems, wires down detection, asset management and mapping, and gas operations. Including the backup power transfer meter application, PG&E has several patent applications pending for a range of technologies including data analytics tools, sensor technologies, and location and marking systems.
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Pacific Gas and Electric Company, a subsidiary of PG&E Corporation (NYSE:PCG), is a combined natural gas and electric utility serving more than 16 million people across 70,000 square miles in Northern and Central California. For more information, visit pge.com and pge.com/news.