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Hawaiian Electric Co. says it will soon begin installing smart grid technologies for 5,200 customers on Oahu as part of its grid modernization efforts. The utility notes that this is the first phase of a plan that would develop smart grids across Oahu, in Maui County and on Hawaii Island by 2018.

Silver Spring Networks, a smart grid technology and solutions provider, is a strategic partner in this effort to modernize Hawaii's electric systems.

Hawaiian Electric says its smart grid program calls for integrating a modern wireless communications network into the existing electric grid. The components will include wireless communications relays, sensors to help improve outage detection, automated system controls to help improve outage restoration and advanced meters for customers in the implementation areas.

Customers will also have access to a customized online Web portal, the utility adds, which will provide frequent updates about their energy usage to help them make informed decisions about better managing energy use.

Residents in Moanalua Valley and portions of Pearl City, Diamond Head, Kaimuki, Kahala and Waikiki are part of this initial phase, Hawaiian Electric reports, and were chosen because of the diverse mix of customers and physical terrain.

According to Hawaiian Electric, the smart grid communications infrastructure, including new meters, will be installed in the initial areas from mid-April to the end of July.

To provide additional long-term benefits, Hawaiian Electric says it is evaluating future applications, including the following:

- Fully automated detection of power outages;

- Integration of new technologies, such as energy storage, which can lead to more efficient use of renewable energy; and

- Support for other energy-saving technology, such as the continued increase of electric vehicles.

"Our state needs modern electric grids to further improve service, provide customers with more choices and integrate more low-cost renewable energy to reduce Hawaii's dependency on expensive imported oil," comments Dan Giovanni, Hawaiian Electric senior vice president for operations.

The utility notes that the plan for full implementation will require Public Utilities Commission approval.

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