Rochester Gas and Electric (RG&E) is an investor-owned utility company that serves 368,000 electricity customers and 305,000 natural gas customers in a nine-country area surrounding the City of Rochester. RG&E is a subsidiary of Iberdrola USA, an energy services and delivery company that serves more than 2.4 million electricity and natural gas customers through NYSEG and RG&E in New York, and Central Maine Power, Maine Natural Gas, and New Hampshire Gas in New England. Iberdrola USA is a subsidiary of Spanish global energy leader, Iberdrola, S.A., which supplies electricity to more than 28 million customers on four continents.
RG&E is committed to deliver value and exceptional reliability to its customers, employees and shareholders. The company also has a strong interest in environmental stewardship. As part of this commitment, the company is at the forefront of advanced technologies for the utility industry. RG&E and NYSEG combined rank seventh in the nation in the number of participants in a utility wind energy program. In 2012, more than 21,000 customers of the two companies purchased wind energy through the “Catch the Wind” program. Purchasing wind energy directly benefits the environment by reducing the need for fossil-fuel generation in New York.
RG&E sees considerable potential in energy storage technology in many aspects of its business. For this reason, it became an active member of NY-BEST. From an economic development perspective, it sees energy storage as an important driver for growth in New York State. Recently, NYSEG and RG&E approved an economic development outreach grant of up to $100,000 for NY-BEST to enhance its website and promote its marketing efforts across New York.
With the growth of renewables, RG&E sees energy storage as an essential technology for the evolution of the grid. The company is involved in a number of specific energy-storage-related projects. It has a pilot program in progress investigating the use of fuel cells as backup power for power stations and substations. Generators or batteries conventionally provide this backup power. Another area of interest is the potential for 2-way charging capabilities for electric vehicles, or V2G technology, as it is commonly known.
Another storage-related area of interest to RG&E is the interconnection of microgrids with the grid at large. As microgrids become more prevalent, there is a growing need for appropriate “middleware”, which allows efficient and effective communication between the microgrid (which generally has its own operating software) and the grid to which it is connected. RG&E is collaborating with the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) on this topic and the two organizations are seeking external funding for a project.
Some utility companies are resistant to the growth of distributed energy sources and the rapid expansion of renewables. RG&E divested itself from generation some time ago and has the view that a resource is a resource. It views its primary obligations as providing acceptable prices, high performance and, most important, reliability. Thus, it performs comparable stability analyses on all potential sources whether they are renewables, nuclear, fossil, or storage resources. A key requirement for utilities is to be able to manage supply-demand imbalances and RG&E sees various forms of storage technology as powerful tools for this purpose. Looking out into the future, it sees the potential for using hydrogen as a storage medium as particularly large.
Mark S. Lynch, president of NYSEG and RG&E explains: “RG&E and Iberdrola USA are keenly interested to learn how energy storage technology can help us increase the efficiency and reliability of the grid. We believe energy storage will be a key ingredient to optimize the use and proliferation of intermittent renewable energy sources like wind and solar. We intend to invest to strengthen and smarten our grid and be ready to integrate multiple energy storage methods with any type of distributed generation in order to maximize their benefits for our customers.”
RG&E is the electric utility for the Rochester area, a region with a long history of innovation that is undergoing another period of growth in the technology industry. In keeping with this legacy, RG&E is embracing new energy sources, environmental stewardship and sustainable business practices. It is a utility that seeks to be ready for the future of the electric grid.