Renewable Energy, Solar

DistribuTECH 2015 Blows Past Records

Issue 3 and Volume 20.

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by Kristen Wright, senior editor

DistribuTECH Conference & Exhibition 2015 blew attendance and conference records out of San Diego Bay for the show’s 25th anniversary.

Some 11,773 attendees from more than 300 utilities and 67 countries gathered Feb. 3-5 at the San Diego Convention Center for the No. 1 annual smart grid show in North America and its sister events, the Utility Products Expo and Electric Light & Power Executive Conference. Although organizers had expected to break last year’s record of more than 10,000 attendees, the number of industry experts who rolled out shattered even the highest expectations.

The Keynote

The standing room-only opening keynote drew more than 2,500 people and rave reviews, especially for theoretical physicist Michio Kaku’s energetic predictions for the next 25 years. The widely regarded “modern-day Einstein” fused science, free market economics and quick-draw one-liners that elicited audience laughter and approval.

“We physicists love to make predictions,” Kaku said. “When we wanted to create the Internet, one of us made a prediction that the Internet would be a forum for high culture, high art and high discourse-we now know that 90 percent of the Internet is pornography.”

Citing Moore’s law, Kaku predicted that in 2020, computer chips will cost a penny. He also foretold of a time when smart glasses and contacts will display resumes and bios of people as soon as the wearers lay eyes on them.

“In the future, you’ll know exactly who to suck up to at every cocktail party,” Kaku said.

And as for utilities, power workers simply will look in their glasses and see the grid all laid out before them, he said. In the case of a hurricane, the technology will save time and money because workers will see blueprints laid out right there in their glasses.

“Who will be the first to wear Internet contact lenses?” Kaku said. “Students taking final exams.”

But Kaku’s smart glasses aren’t all rose-colored. He said that as wind power and solar power experience incremental advances, energy storage will continue to be the bottleneck-a theme throughout the week.

The keynote also addressed the current era of power, courtesy of Edison International Chairman, President and CEO Theodore “Ted” F. Craver Jr. and San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) CEO Jeffrey Martin.

“This is the age of discovery for our energy industry, and I would submit, for our country,” Martin said. “There will be more change in the way we use electricity in the next 10 years as there has been in the past 100.”

Martin shared some of SDG&E’s endeavors, including: an online fast-track process that can provide same-day connection for residential solar power; an electric vehicle program with nearly 15,000 customers; implementation of new technologies such as microgrids and synchrophasors; and pushing for rate reform, which will be critical to the evolution of the utility model, he said.

Craver said the utility industry is changing in four main ways, but the timing remains to be determined.

The No. 1 change is shifts in public policy and the move toward a low-carbon economy, he said. Second, Craver said, is new technology. The third is competition. And fourth is slow kilowatt-hour sales.

The industry, he said, shouldn’t be myopically focused on the dollars and cents. Craver cast his own prediction for the utility industry.

“We will be getting away from simply delivering a commodity and more into delivering value,” he said.

The goal, he said, is to balance the transition to a low-carbon economy while ensuring electricity remains affordable. And in doing so, there are four considerations:

1. Improve efficiency of the system, which has been built for peaks;
2. Expand and integrate renewables;
3. Optimize distributed energy resources; and
4. Expand electrification into other sectors.

“We think it’s best to plan for change,” Craver said.

And betting against technology, he said, is very dangerous.

The Conference

DistribuTECH 2015 featured 26 Utility University workshops, 81 conference sessions in 15 tracks specific to power delivery and water utility technologies, a combined exhibition with Utility Products of more than 480 companies, two co-located events and activities and networking events.

This year DistribuTECH sessions broke attendance records, as well, drawing more than 5,400. Many of the sessions filled quickly and left latecomers standing at the back or sitting on the floor where space was available. The most popular sessions were:

1. “Communications for Distribution Automation and DSCADA” (presenters included SDG&E, BC Hydro, Black & Veatch, CalAmp, Powertech Labs Inc.);
2. “Using Analytics to Optimize Asset Management” (presenters included PECO, DTE Energy, Oracle Utilities, Open Access Technology International Inc., IBM);
3. “Improving Reliability and Customer Expectations Through Data Analytics” (presenters included CenterPoint Energy, Gulf Power Co., ClearGrid Innovations Inc., EnerNex);
4. “Substation/DA Communications and Protocols” (presenters included Duke Energy, ComEd, Mount Victoria Associates, it4power, DNP Technical Committee); and
5. “Industry Experiences With Microgrids Applications in Modern Power Distribution Systems” (presenters included SDG&E, Southern Co., Smarter Grid Solutions, SIMARD SG Inc., Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories Inc., OSIsoft LLC).

Electric Light & Power, POWERGRID INTERNATIONAL annual Awards Dinner

POWERGRID International Editor in Chief and DistribuTECH Chairwoman Teresa Hansen announced the annual POWERGRID International Projects of the Year live the evening before the keynote during the Electric Light & Power and POWERGRID International Awards Dinner.

The banquet at the Omni San Diego honored Projects of the Year finalists (read the article on Page 14 for details, and view the slideshow and videos at www.power-grid.com); Electric Light & Power Small Utility CEO of the Year Joseph A. Isabella, director of Vineland Municipal Electric Utilities in Vineland, New Jersey.; Electric Light & Power Large Utility CEO of the Year Craver, of Edison International; and Dominion Generation Group Executive Vice President and CEO David A. Christian, who accepted the Electric Light & Power Utility of the Year award on behalf of Dominion.

LIVE WEBCASTS

DistribuTECH offered four live webcasts throughout the week, hosted by Intergraph, G&W, Siemens and Schneider Electric. (All four one-hour panel discussions are archived and available on demand for free at www.power-grid.com.)

MEGA SESSIONS

DistribuTECH also hosted a record six mega sessions, including two on the future of the grid, one of which had a water focus. The others looked at “Reforming the Energy Vision in New York,” “Finding Common Ground Between Utilities and Connected Home Service Providers,” “Key Accomplishments of the DOE SGIG-Funded AMI Projects,” and Damage Assessment and Mother Nature’s Fury.”

DOC INTERNATIONAL BUYER PROGRAM

DistribuTECH was chosen to participate in the U.S. Department of Commerce’s (DOC’s) 2015 International Buyer Program designed to bring together international buyers with U.S. companies.

This was the second year DistribuTECH has partnered with the DOC on the program.

“This year we had 12 country delegations with 263 international participants and visitors,” Hansen said.

As part of the International Buyer Program, a DOC International Business Center was on-site at DistribuTECH. International delegates and exhibitors interested in establishing business relations could get information about export counseling, translation assistance, B2B matchmaking services, business services, market information, conference rooms and interpreter assistance.

EXHIBIT FLOOR HIGHLIGHTS

  • Workshops in the Utility Products Presentation Theatre: Kevin O’Donovan of Intel Corp., Matt Dell of Hi-Line Utility Co., Steve Gordon of Hubbell Power Systems/A.B. Chance hosted.
  • Product demos in the Utility Products Presentation Theatre: GridRX, Altec Industries, Crosslink Technology Inc., M.U.U.D.S., BirdBuffer Q3, M.S. Outdoor Products, StructureCast, Megger and 5.11 performed demos.
  • QinetiQ North America introduced LineWatch, which measures fault detection, voltage and current to near revenue-grade levels of accuracy and other key power line conditions.
  • Landis+Gyr announced the commercial availability of the S610 Line Sensor for the Gridstream RF network, a smart grid platform for advanced metering and grid management applications.
  • Trimble rolled out apps for utility network, right of way planning.
  • ABB promoted new grid integration technology applications and product enhancements.
  • BRS Labs offered a sneak peek at how its award-winning AISight solution can enhance supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) operations.
  • Intergraph and ETAP announced a partnership for a smart grid management solution.
  • Texas Instruments demonstrated a spectrum of end-to-end solutions for grid infrastructure.
  • Silver Spring Networks showcased how the SilverLink Sensor Network is helping unlock smart grid big data to enable utilities of the future.
  • Aclara unveiled an LTE cellular network for utility connectivity.
  • Robert Barrett, an infra team lead at SDG&E, won a new Scion FR-S during the DistribuTECH annual floor giveaway.

DistribuTECH will be Feb. 9-11, 2016, at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Florida.

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