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National Grids' Virtual Home tool offers customers energy insights, membership to an energy community, energy rewards and an interactive display with more than 20 energy efficiency tips

In the US, multinational electricity and natural gas company National Grid has announced it has added a new Virtual Home tool to its Smart Energy Solutions Program (SES).

The new functionality allows customers to gain an interactive view of their home, learning where and how they can reduce their energy usage and save money.

The Virtual Home feature is part of National Grid's online customer engagement portal that provides a range of services such as value-added consumption information to help customers better understand their energy use and how to reduce it.

The portal features an energy community enabling users to view how their energy savings stack up against their neighbours.

The programme also offers energy rewards allowing participants who complete energy efficiency measures to earn points and features an interactive display with more than 20 energy efficiency tips.

Self-healing grid capabilities

The SES also has self-healing capabilities as demonstrated by a power outage in the Smart Energy Solutions pilot area in Worcester, Massachusetts, which could have adversely affected 1,000 customers.

National Grid said as a result of the installation of advanced technology on the SES electricity system, the energy company was able to significantly reduce the outage’s impact.

Bill Jones, director of National Grid’s Smart Energy Solutions Program, said: “The advanced communication and monitoring devices that provide detailed power outage information were able to safely and automatically restore power within four minutes to approximately 700 customers.”

According to the National Grid, another 100 customers had their power restored within 15 minutes and the remaining customers within the same hour.

Mr Jones adds: "Without the new capabilities, it may have taken close to two hours to restore power. While any outage is not desirable, National Grid was able to assess the performance of the infrastructure and will be able to use these findings to further improve the reliability and performance of the electrical system."

Smart devices for smart energy

Apart from National Grid's Virtual Home tool, SES participants are also eligible for a range of technology tools and options, including the Homeview app from Ceiva Energy that allows customers to monitor and manage their energy use remotely.

Customers are able to control home devices such as smart thermostats and smart plugs.

Homeowners will also receive notifications via phone call, email or text message in advance of peak events at certain hours throughout the year, such as during the summer months, when electricity costs are high and there are capacity constraints on the grid.

The SES programme began in January 2015, with the pilot to be completed in 2017.