Gaining an Edge: Future of Grid Focus of Siemens Event

By Teresa Hansen, Editor in Chief

The “future utility” has been the focus of many discussions for a number of years and that discussion continued at the recent Siemens’ Industry Analyst Conference in Boston.

Mike Carlson, president of Siemens Digital Grid North America, pointed out during the conference that Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) began researching and discussing the future utility more than a decade ago. The early research and discussion, however, focused mostly on economics, he said.

That focus has changed. Today, technology is driving the future utility, Carlson said. Distributed energy resources (DER) are and will continue to be one of the biggest drivers of change and the biggest disrupter for utilities during the next five years.

Digitalization will be the other big driver of change, Carlson predicted. He pointed out that digitalization affects more than just software, it impacts operations and optimization.

In a room filled with energy industry analysts, editors and journalists, there was no shortage of dialog and discussion about where the electric power delivery business is headed. One consensus in the group was that current regulations are no longer adequate or in tune with technology and the new business models and revenue streams it enables. Many in the audience acknowledged and spoke of the frustration utility executives feel over regulators’ lack (or at least slow pace) of action.

Grid monitors and controls combined with market analytics will provide the economic answers energy providers are looking for, Carlson said.

When asked how quickly he sees policy moving, Carlson said electric delivery utilities can’t wait on regulations or they will “lose the game.”

In market models, utilities must be the platform optimizers and service providers, but they are in a tough spot, he said. It’s difficult to say whether utilities should be “fast followers or slow leaders,” Carlson said.

Much of the day’s discussion, from both Siemens’ executives and the audience, centered on moving from the general picture to more community-focused issues-decentralized generation and customer service and the new revenue streams they’ll allow. Most people agreed that those delivering electricity (and services) must be situational aware.

In other words, they must know what’s happening at the edge of the grid.

“We see edge-based as well as enterprise-based equally important,” said Ken Geisler, vice president of Siemens Digital Grid Strategy and Solutions.

Another consensus was that grid-edge sensors and controls will require grid-edge analytics.

“The future grid cannot be built without analytics-next generation analytics,” Geisler added.

While there was consensus that analytics is necessary and it allows data to be converted into business value, human involvement in analytics and grid automation was not so cut and dried.

Mike Carlson, president of Siemens Digital Grid North America, talks to analysts and media in Boston

Machine-to-machine (M2M) interface that allows grid analytics and automation to occur with no human input or interference was discussed and debated. It was clear that some experts believe human input should be included somewhere in the interface. Others, however, feel that to get the speed, accuracy and advantages analytics offers, the human interface should be removed.

Randy Horn, vice president of Digital Grid Software for Siemens Digital Grid Division in Minneapolis, was one of those people. “We either accept an inefficient grid or we trust automation and analytics,” he said.

The event was filled with plenty of thought-provoking and enlightening discussion. At the end of the day, however, everyone agreed that the future grid is not totally defined, that many solutions, some still unknown, will be created and that it will take utilities, the many vendors that support them, academia and regulators working together to create the solutions needed now and in the future to ensure utilities and their customers reap all the benefits advancing technology offers.

Aquion, Schneider and Azimuth Join Forces on Nanogrid at Illinois School

Aquion Energy Inc., Schneider Electric and Azimuth Energy completed an AC/DC nanogrid at the Illinois Institute of Technology’s (IIT) Keating Sports Center. The nanogrid, which was designed and installed by Azimuth Energy, is a combined solar-plus-energy storage system that uses Aquion Aspen batteries for storage and Schneider power control electronics for energy management.

“This is the future of distributed generation, where isolated loads powered by renewables combined with energy storage can stand alone and operate without the grid,” said Tim Poor, chief commercial officer of Aquion Energy.

The IIT nanogrid is unique because it supports both alternating current (AC) and direct current (DC) loads. During the day, the solar array directly powers the highly efficient DC LED lighting systems and AC loads, while simultaneously charging the batteries. Any excess solar energy can be exported to the grid. In the event of a grid outage, the batteries and solar panels deliver energy to the system 24/7.

“This project will greatly increase energy efficiency, as well as provide critical backup power in case of an outage,” said Dr. Mohammad Shahidehpour, Ph.D, IIT’s director of the Robert W. Galvin Center for Electricity Innovation. “In case of emergencies, we will be able to separate the Keating Center from the rest of IIT’s grid, while maintaining full power to the facility. We’re very pleased with the benefits derived from this project and the innovative technologies that have been implemented.”

Although the Keating nanogrid has a connection to the campus microgrid, it is engineered to operate autonomously using only solar and batteries, as an islanded off-grid system. The nanogrid is a demonstration of how a solar plus storage system can provide resilient electricity for critical building loads, such as police stations and hospitals, during power outages. In the case of an outage, any building with a nanogrid could continue to be powered by its own sustainable, self-generated electricity. The nanogrid also allows building operators to respond to their power demand and control how and when they use power from the microgrid-and ultimately from the utility.

“This project was a fun challenge that stretched all our knowledge of microgrids,” said Marc Lopata, president of Azimuth Energy. “The Keating nanogrid will provide a reliable and versatile platform for future research by the IIT Galvin Center under the direction of Dr. Shahidehpour. We had less than our expected share of surprises, and I attribute that to the functionality, quality control and support from Aquion and Schneider.”

Nevada Regulators Will Grandfather Rooftop Solar Rates

By Staff and Wire Reports

Solar power users in Nevada have reason to cheer as a deal was worked out to prevent rate hikes for homes that already have rooftop solar systems, according to reports.

Berkshire Hathaway Energy and SolarCity struck a deal on rates for about 32,000 existing solar power generating homes. The three-member Nevada Public Utilities Commission approved the deal unanimously. Those customers will now use the same net metering rates until November 2036.

The commission voted to approve a rate hike for solar homes in December, which enraged solar providers, prompting SolarCity to stop selling rooftop solar systems to Nevada customers.

Gov. Brian Sandoval responded by requesting that existing solar customers be grandfathered into their old rates

The issue of net metering rates for solar could have been decided by popular vote via Nevada Question 5, but the state Supreme Court struck the ballot measure down in August.

The seven-member court bluntly rejected proposed Question 5 as fundamentally flawed, ruling unanimously that a description of the referendum that backers provided for voters was “inaccurate,” “misleading” and “argumentative.”

The decision dealt a blow to solar industry supporters, primarily rooftop panel installation company SolarCity, in an ongoing fight over solar power buy-back rates with the state’s dominant electric utility, NV Energy.

The justices faulted the ballot description for “using terms that are not in the statutory language, such as ‘green energy,'” claiming that rooftop solar rates and charges set by the Nevada Public Utilities Commission were “unaffordable and cost-prohibitive,” and saying that passage of the measure would allow for “reasonable” rates.

Berkshire Hathaway owns NV Energy, which operates in the Las Vegas area as Nevada Power. The electric company backed No Solar Tax PAC, a political action committee that argued the measure aimed to force customers who don’t have rooftop electric systems to subsidize customers who have them.

“We support solar energy. We don’t support an unfair subsidy for people who have a solar array on their home,” said Danny Thompson, a plaintiff in a case that led a lower court judge to determine that the measure didn’t clearly state what people were voting for.

Thompson is also union executive secretary of the Nevada state AFL-CIO.

National Grid Unit Seeking Extension of Smart Energy Pilot Project

By Corina Rivera Linares, Chief Analyst, Transmission Hub

Massachusetts Electric Co. and parent company National Grid, submitted a filing to the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities, requesting approval to extend its Smart Energy Solutions Program until Dec. 31, 2018.

The company noted that it is currently conducting a two-year smart grid pilot under the Green Communities Act.

The pilot’s smart pricing, bill protection and demand response capabilities went into effect for participating customers on Jan. 1, 2015, the company said, noting that the pilot is scheduled to end on Dec. 31.

Extending the pilot would further the goals of the Green Communities Act and continue to provide benefits to customers. In addition, extending the pilot would provide additional empirical evidence on the operational benefits of the distribution grid-facing assets installed as part of the pilot, as well as on customer acceptance and response to time varying rates, the company said.

The company also noted that results of the pilot to date have shown that customers have noticeably benefitted from their participation in the pilot, including peak and average load reductions, and measurable bill savings.

The results from the first year of the operation of the grid devices and experiments that are part of the pilot and that provide the remote detection, operation and communications capabilities have shown significant customer, reliability and operational efficiency benefits, and indicate customer value in its continuation, the company said.

An interim update filed in April indicated that advanced distribution automation (ADA) delivered an about 75 percent reduction in customer minutes interrupted for two events, and that the System Average Interruption Duration Index (SAIDI) for the pilot area experienced a 9 percent reduction with ADA.

National Grid added that it is proposing to keep in place, and continue operating, the capital assets installed as part of the pilot, which include smart meters, grid devices and a communication system.

Bankruptcy Court Approves NextEra Bid for Oncor Electric Delivery

By Rod Walton, Senior Editor

NextEra Energy Inc.’s $18.4 billion bid to buy control of Texas-based electricity delivery giant Oncor Electric Delivery cleared a major hurdle Sept 19 when the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Delaware approved the deal.

The definitive agreement between Oncor’s bankrupt parent Energy Future Holdings Corp. (EFH) and Florida-based NextEra is part of a Chapter 11 reorganization plan. Next Era acquires 100 percent of the reorganized EFH’s equity, which includes the 80 percent ownership interest in Oncor.

“Our proposed transaction provides Oncor with a financially strong, utility-focused owner that shares Oncor’s commitment to providing customers with affordable, reliable electric delivery service and significant value and certainty for the EFH bankruptcy estate,” said Jim Robo, chairman and chief executive officer of NextEra Energy, shortly after the ruling came down. “With this important milestone behind us, we look forward to working closely with additional EFH creditors to gain their support for successful confirmation of EFH’s plan of reorganization and, together with Oncor, filing our joint application for transaction approval soon with the Public Utility Commission of Texas.”

NextEra Energy also said that it expects to file with Oncor a joint application with the Public Utility Commission of Texas requesting approval of the proposed transaction.

If successful, NextEra would gain control of Oncor, which delivers power to more than 3 million Texas homes and operates about 119,000 miles of transmission and distribution lines in the state. As part of the transaction, NextEra Energy intends to fund $9.5 billion for the repayment of EFH debt, according to the company.

NextEra Energy expects the transaction, which has been approved by the boards of directors of both NextEra Energy and EFH, to be completed in the first quarter of 2017. The company says its acquisition would ensure the support of Oncor’s existing five-year capital plan, which includes substantial and necessary planned capital improvement projects across the state of Texas.

Oncor Electric Delivery has faced an uncertain future since EFH, formerly TXU, went bankrupt with $42 billion in debt.

EYE ON the world

GE to Supply Power Transformers for Karadeniz Powerships

General Electric (GE) announced that it will supply 16 power transformers to Karpowership, an affiliate of Karadeniz Energy Group. The transformers will be installed in four powerships that include the world’s largest powerships at 486 MW.

Karpowership is the first company in the world to operate floating power plants, called powerships. These floating power plants help meet the increased electric power demand in the world. The powerships drop anchor at countries with urgent power needs and provide short-term power supply by connecting its onboard high-voltage transformers to the electrical grid.

GE’s Grid Solutions business has already delivered 16 power transformers for Karpowership, with an installed capacity of 1.5 GW for a contract signed last year. With these additional transformers, GE will enable the connection of floating power plants with a total installed capacity of 2.5 GW.

“The transmission speed of the generated electricity has become critical as the world’s demand for energy increases with each passing day,” said Osman M. Karadeniz, chairman of Karpowership. “With this vision, we at Karpowership provide the electricity that we generate with the world’s first powerships on the sea to the countries in need.”

GE will produce and deliver power transformers of 100 and 200 MVA and will ensure the deployment, field tests and replacement part provision. The delivery of transformers is planned to be completed by the end of 2016.

“The agreement we signed with Karpowership reflects our support for local employment, innovation and production, our contribution to the national economy and our effort to build on the local partnerships in line with our commitments at GE in Turkey,” said Canan M. àƒ—zsoy, president and CEO, GE Turkey.

Powership. Courtesy of GE

“We are proud to produce these transformers in our transformer factory in Gebze, one of the world’s most advanced facilities in the field, contributing to the national economy by exporting 85 percent of its production,” àƒ—zsoy added. “Highlighting that the opportunity to help meet the short term electricity demands of countries quickly and cost-effectively is an important step toward providing sustainable and reliable energy for more people.”

With these four new powerships, Karpowership’s fleet’s total installed capacity will exceed 4 GW either under construction or in the pipeline. The floating power plants have the capacity to drop anchor at countries with an immediate power need or demand. Through GE’s transformers, gigawatts of electric power will be transmitted to the country within hours. These power transformers have the capacity to supply the electric power need of approximately 17 million households per annum.

Designed specifically for the Powership project, these transformers will have a special coating to protect them against the impact of moisture and salt. They are designed to operate under different climatic conditions in temperatures ranging from -20 C to 50 C (-4 F to 122 F).

Northeast Group: Global Spending on Transmission to Top $3.2 Trillion in Next Decade

Over the next decade, electric utilities will invest $3.2 trillion globally in new and replacement transmission and distribution (T&D) infrastructure.

This infrastructure investment will be necessary due to growing electricity demand, aging assets and new power generation projects, including intermittent renewable resources that are straining the grid, according to a new dataset published by Northeast Group.

“Utilities and governments across the world are developing new generation projects, particularly renewable energy ones, to meet rising electricity demand. But often missing from the headlines is the massive investment that will be required in T&D infrastructure to accommodate these projects,” said Ben Gardner, president of Northeast Group.

T&D investment will be significant in all major geographies. The largest new investment over the next decade will be in China and India as they seek to meet rising electricity demand while also modernizing their grids, the dataset revealed.

Developed countries also will invest significantly, particularly in smart grid infrastructure and renewable energy integration. France alone plans to invest over $1 billion per year in T&D infrastructure, focusing on integrating renewable energy, while US utilities will invest nearly $20 billion per year in transmission, up from just $10 billion per year back in 2010.

Developed countries also will lead the way in distribution-level smart grid infrastructure (distribution automation) investment. In many developed countries, distribution automation-including substation automation, fault detection, isolation and restoration schemes (FDIR), volt/VAR optimization (VVO) and additional grid monitoring and control infrastructure-will reach 15-20 percent of total annual T&D investment. This will compensate for modestly lower legacy T&D investment as distributed generation and demand response programs gradually reduce the need for new power lines and substations.

Several leading global vendors including ABB, GE/Alstom, S&C, Schneider Electric and Siemens, will be vying for this significant market. They will compete with each other as well as a number of local and regional players, Northeast Group predicts.

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The Clarion Energy Content Team is made up of editors from various publications, including POWERGRID International, Power Engineering, Renewable Energy World, Hydro Review, Smart Energy International, and Power Engineering International. Contact the content lead for this publication at

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