ARRA Dominates GridWeek

by Teresa Hansen, editor in chief

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) is making a down payment on the nation’s clean energy economy, Steven Chu, U.S. Department of Energy secretary, told GridWeek 2009 attendees.

Secretary Chu speaks at GridWeek 2009.

Chu began the annual meeting by commenting on the smart grid and its importance to the country’s future. He said the country is falling behind in several areas of the clean energy race, including photovoltaics, battery development, transmission advancements and nuclear energy. The $4.5 billion to be awarded to utilities to modernize the grid should help the United States start developing a much-needed clean energy economy, he said.

Chu defined the smart grid as a combination of dynamic optimization of grid operations and resources combined with integration of demand response technologies and renewable energy. He said power quality issues will arise as more renewables are added to the generation mix. For the country to reach 20 percent renewable generation or more, energy storage technology must be developed and implemented. The penetration of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) is still less than 1 percent and needs to increase, he said. The grid is not ready for a high penetration of PHEVs, at least not the 30 to 50 percent he said is needed.

“Electric vehicles can provide a lot of high-class energy storage,” Chu said. “They can take care of much of our energy storage issues.”

Chu also announced $100 million available in funding from the Recovery Act to support work force training for the electric power industry. This initiative is meant to expand job creation and career advancement associated with smart grid and electricity transmission projects. It also should help establish training programs for workers in the utility industry and electrical manufacturing sectors who will play key roles in modernizing the electricity grid, he said.

Funding will support two work force training strategies. One, which will receive $35 million to $40 million, will develop training programs, strategies and curricula to serve as models to train or retrain workers in the electric power sector. This funding will be open to applicants including utilities, colleges and universities, trade schools and labor organizations.

The other initiative will receive $60 million to $65 million dollars to conduct work force training programs for new hires and retraining electric utility workers and electrical equipment manufacturers to further their knowledge of smart grid technologies and their implementations.

Chu’s prepared GridWeek 2009 presentation was informative, but his most interesting comments came later during a question-and-answer session with the press. He stressed the importance of a green energy economy. The first countries to develop and use green energy technology will see economic prosperity, he said, and these countries will create high-paying manufacturing jobs.

“Both sides of the aisle understand the economic opportunities related to a green energy economy,” Chu said. “They also understand that a green energy economy will create a better life for young people and future generations.”

He warned that the United States is behind China and Europe in many areas related to sustainable energy, high-voltage transmission and smart grid. Stimulus funds should help put people to work and create a new industry that can compete on a global level–a green energy industry, he said.

Commerce Secretary Gary Locke used GridWeek as a backdrop for an important announcement. He unveiled the Commerce Department’s plan for developing smart grid standards. Produced by the department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology, the approximately 90-page document identifies about 80 initial standards that will enable the interconnected devices and systems–ranging from large utility companies to individual homes and electronic devices–that will make up the nationwide smart grid to communicate and work with each other, Locke said.

Attendees listen in on a GridWeek 2009 conference session.

“The utility industry did in six months what it took the telecommunications industry more than two years to accomplish,” Locke said.

The report includes a set of 14 “priority action plans” that address the most important gaps in the initial standard set. Locke compared the document to an architect’s first drawing of a detailed structure.

He also said that barriers to getting the smart grid up to scale are not technical; coordination of regulations and standards is the problem. Decoupling energy efficiency from power generation is a key to the smart grids success, Locke said.

Many other industry experts participated in GridWeek 2009, including Congressman Edward Markey (D-Mass.), who said the electricity sector suffers from the same lack of policy that the telecom industry experienced in the early 1990s.

The telecom industry was responsible for more than $850 billion of investment in U.S.-made products and services, and the investment unleashed by the smart grid will be four times bigger than telecom, Markey said.

“We are in a race for the manufacturing sector of clean energy technology,” Markey said. “The energy technology sector is now attracting more venture capital than any other sector in the U.S. market, with IT being second.”

Markey was not alone in his vision of the smart grid and its potential. A common theme at GridWeek 2009 was that the electricity industry is on the verge of a revolution, and the smart grid is the instrument to transform it. Several speakers compared the smart grid’s potential to the technology explosion in the telecom industry. When the first cellular telephones were introduced, they were simple. In the 15-plus years since their introduction, cell phone applications have been developed that were never dreamed of when the industry began. GridWeek presenters said they expect the same to happen with smart grid applications.


Autovation 2009 Reveals Focus on Customers, In-home Displays


By Kathleen Davis, senior editor

Technology association Utilimetrics drew nearly 1,400 participants to its annual conference and expo in Denver. Both the Autovation 2009 sessions and exhibit floor focused on emerging in-home technology, as well as customer service, education and interaction.

“We were extremely pleased, especially given the down economy and the fact that conference participation nationwide is down about 30 percent,” said Utilimetrics CEO Joel Hoiland. “In fact, Autovation drew its fourth-largest audience on record.About 30 percent of our attendees were from investor-owned utilities, municipals and cooperatives.”


Inside the Sessions


There were nearly 90 educational sessions, big-picture sessions and opening and closing presentations from industry insiders.

Opening session speaker Daniel Burrus, a technology futurist and business strategist, highlighted trends to better understand how technological, social and business forces are converging to create opportunities. He encouraged utilities to think strategically and to position themselves as part of the solution.

A look at one of the in-home energy management devices on display at Autovation. This one is manufactured by Control 4.

Additionally, more than 200 speakers from utilities, vendors and consultants covered several topics, including: smart-energy strategy, smart networks, meter data management, home-area networks, operations, demand-response energy efficiency, telecom and cyber-security.

Educational Session 4 on Tuesday morning featured an operations presentation by Chris Isakson of KEMA, Dan Cortez of CenterPoint Energy and Ted Reguly of San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E). They discussed outage containment efforts, storm restoration issues and customer interaction.

Isakson said that while we are in a period of increased storm activity, the approach to storm-related outages hasn’t changed. There are four levels, with the first two being small and localized and the second two moving out to regions and systemwide outages.

No matter what the level, utilities usually receive notice of the outage through SCADA reporting or customer notification, a slow process that can be changed with advances in smart metering, Isakson said.

“Smart grid technologies can optimize the restoration process and minimize the number of customers impacted,” he said.

Cortez agreed, adding lessons learned from CenterPoint’s encounter with Hurricane Ike, where the Houston area lost 2 million customers in eight hours. Hurricane Ike taught the company what it needs for its smart grid future in three areas: event avoidance, a self-healing grid and advanced meter systems, Cortez said.

Standing 40-feet high, Lawrence Argent’s “I See What You Mean”—commonly called the big blue bear—peers through the lobby of the Colorado Convention Center. Courtesy of the Denver Metro Convention & Visitors Bureau.

“We want to be a company that finds the problem before the problem happens,” he said.

Cortez advocated getting customers more involved, including in the supply of outage information and even cell phone pictures of problems and events.

“We want to use the eyes of the consumer,” he said.

That consumer focus also popped up in Reguly’s discussion about SDG&E’s smart grid and smart metering program. The utility aims to give the customer choice, convenience and control, he said.

Closing keynote speaker Ed Lu, Google program manager in advanced projects, also talked about customers. He said that Google is making multiple versions of its Google PowerMeter. The company is refining the Web tool and expects to see expanded programs in the next few months. Lu leads a team of engineers working to develop this meter, which will enable consumers to make informed choices about their energy use as they browse the Web, read e-mail or use mobile phones.


On the Floor


Google is not alone in that customer-centric technology. Vendors from Control4 to Echelon to eMeter are crafting new products aimed at informed energy consumers.

Comverge, a provider of smart grid, demand management and energy efficiency solutions, announced at Autovation it has received ZigBee Smart Energy certification for its PowerPortal in-home display. It joins Comverge’s two other certified products, a digital control unit and a programmable communication thermostat in the ZigBee fold.

“We congratulate Comverge on earning ZigBee Smart Energy certification for the PowerPortal,” said Benno Ritter, vice president of marketing at the ZigBee Alliance. “Comverge’s growing portfolio of ZigBee Smart Energy products is indicative of both their leadership and innovation in energy management.”

Control4, a maker of IP-based home control systems, introduced the Control4 energy management system (EMS) 100 at Autovation 2009. The EMS 100 combines the functionality of a home area network controller with a wireless thermostat and energy management software. The EMS 100 is the only home energy management solution that delivers customer usage data via the smart meter and a standards-based, secure platform that can control virtually every device in the home, according to Control4. The system aggregates energy usage data from various loads and presents the information in a customer display.

The announcement came at Autovation that Siemens Energy Inc. and Silicon Valley Power (SVP) have entered into a contract for eMeter Corp.’s EnergyIP meter data management system software for its Meter Connect program as part of SVP’s overall smart grid project. SVP is a municipal utility with 51,000 electric and 27,000 water meters. Siemens is the global sales channel for EnergyIP sales and manages installation, configuration and first line support.

“After an extensive search of the market place for a meter data management solution, we found a long-term partner in Siemens Energy and a very flexible and comprehensive product in EnergyIP,” said Larry Owens, director of customer services at Silicon Valley Power. “Together, they provide the critical first component of SVP’s Meter Connect program and bring the capability we need to deliver on the service expectations of our tech-savvy community.”

Aclara introduced a mesh-based wide-area network for utilities at the show. The Aclara Smart Communications Network is a high-bandwidth, standards-based, broadband solution that will bring together existing utility assets and applications into a single network. The network is designed for use by gas, water or electric utilities and employs TCP/IP communications protocols as well as IEEE 802.11 standards for wireless communications. The network provides an interface to utility and IT resources and back-office applications for SCADA control and monitoring systems, advanced metering infrastructure, home-area networks and mobile work force applications.

Also at Autovation, Itron Inc. announced its partnership with EnergyHub, a home energy solutions provider, for integration of Itron’s ERT reading technology with EnergyHub’s in-home energy management devices. The dashboard combines in a single interface the functionality of a home energy display and a programmable communicating thermostat.

Autovation 2009 convened Sept. 13-16 in Denver at the Colorado Convention Center Sept. 13-16. Autovation 2010 will be Sept. 12-15 in Austin, Texas.

On the Net:


Carvallo Equates Electricity, Well-being and the Smart Grid


By Kathleen Davis, senior editor

As noted in previous POWERGRID International articles, Andres Carvallo, the chief information officer (CIO) of Austin Energy, became the father of the smart grid when he coined the now popular term in 2007 at an industry conference. In giving the industry the term, though, Carvallo also contributed to a new way of thinking about power delivery.

POWERGRID International first spoke to Carvallo for the second part of the “Will Smart Grid Take Over the World?” features. The conversation started in that article continues here as Carvallo discusses how we see–and how we should see–the future of power.


Climbing the Pyramid


School children across the world were once taught the important levels of Abraham Maslow’s pyramid, a hierarchy of basic needs that ranged from the physical (food, water) to self-actualization (creativity, morality). The pyramid was a visual reminder of what humans require and desire. Carvallo said that pyramid needs to be updated to include human inventions, including electricity. Electricity should be right down there at the physical level, supporting the rest of the pyramid, he said.

“Power has become dominant in our society,” Carvallo said. “It’s the platform for basic well-being.”

Arguing that it should be included at the foundation level of the pyramid, Carvallo said that few people today talk about how they need sustenance, require nutrition or desire food. Instead, we talk about going out for steak, enjoying a good bit of pie, savoring a choice wine. While the need still underlies it, we moved up the pyramid a bit. For Carvallo, this runs parallel to power.

“You and I don’t use electricity,” he said. “We use the TV, the oven. We turn on the lights. We leverage the applications. We don’t wake up and think, “˜I’ll use electricity today.'”

That mindset emphasizes how basic power has become to humanity and just why it belongs at the base of the pyramid. Our own ignorance about electricity, our lack of knowledge about the basics of power, our assumption that it’s always going to be there–those all contribute to it being a foundation block, not the pointy top of the hierarchy, Carvallo said.

As we think less about the basics of power–as we continue to assume that need will always be met–we plug more in, however: more appliances, applications and need. That’s where a smart grid that shores up the foundation and enables more self-actualization applications becomes a positive mesh that supports Maslow’s concepts. It steadies and expands on Maslow’s ideals, he said.

“The smart grid is a new platform enabling better consumption, better generation, better distribution, as well as enabling the consumer,” Carvallo said.


Chasing the Edge


Carvallo labels all those new applications set atop the basic foundation of power as “the edge.” The industry and consumers are always chasing the next big application for power, but without real thought to the technology that chase requires.

“The edge continues to grow,” Carvallo said. “And the way we’ve been monitoring the edge has been blind. We can’t do that anymore.”

 In the old days, new applications would be discovered, utilities would struggle with how to plug that into the old grid–sometimes applying MacGyver-like techniques–and things would move on, until another application required yet another spit-and-chewing-gum adjustment. The smart grid, however, represents the industry finally diverging from that old way of thinking and positioning themselves ahead of the edge.

“Utilities are moving from being reactive to being proactive,” Carvallo said. “It’s a shift from being utility-centric to being consumer-centric.”

That shift has brought all sorts of new toys to the edge: energy management systems, smart meters, smart sensors, new software to manage data, new billing, even the possibility of real-time pricing and time-of-use rates. Austin Energy has finally stopped chasing that edge and used the coming smart grid to position itself ahead of the line, Carvallo said.

Austin Energy has in place what Carvallo termed “Smart Grid 1.0,” a deployment that covers 1 million consumers and 43,000 businesses and preps them for the basics of the smart grid (faster data movement, more precise knowledge of outages and fluctuations). “Smart Grid 2.0″ is Austin’s next goal, and that involves adding plug-in electric vehicles, solar panels and all things über green. Months of ongoing study has the utility looking at a microcosm of the future with a development of 1,000 homes and 35 businesses where Austin will test that 2.0 ideal as early as a couple of months into 2010. Labeled the Pecan Street Project, this microcosm represents a partnership among Austin Energy, the city of Austin, the University of Texas at Austin and greater Austin businesses.

This microcosm 2.0 vision for Austin will tackle all the bigger problems faced by the smart grid at large: interoperability issues, standards issues, software and protocol problems. Carvallo sees the industry using smaller pilots like the Pecan Street Project to solve the minor setbacks involved in our overall smart grid transition, he said.

“Smart grid technology is imperative for every city, every state, every country,” Carvallo said. “Projects like Pecan Street will help us get there.”

On the Net:


NIST Releases Report


In September, Commerce Secretary Gary Locke unveiled an accelerated plan for developing standards to reach the smart grid.

Produced by the Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the approximately 90-page document identifies about 80 initial standards to support interoperability of all the various pieces of the system. The report also lists a set of 14 “priority action plans” that address the most important gaps in the initial standard set.

“To use an analogy from the construction world, this report is like a designer’s first detailed drawing of a complex structure,” Locke said in prepared remarks. “It presents a high-level conceptual model to ensure that everyone is on the same page before moving forward to develop more detailed, formal smart grid architectures. This high-level model is critical to help plan where to go next.”

The draft report, “NIST Framework and Roadmap for Smart Grid Interoperability Standards, Release 1.0,” incorporates input from more than 1,500 industry, government and other stakeholders who have participated in the NIST framework development process.

NIST will finalize the document, which is the culmination of the first phase of NIST’s three-phase approach to develop smart grid standards. Phase 1, the engagement of stakeholders in a participatory public process to identify applicable standards and gaps in currently available standards and priorities for new standardization activities, ends with the final publication of the report after public comments have been incorporated.

Phase 2 will establish a private-public partnership and forum–a smart grid interoperability panel–to drive longer-term progress. Phase 3 will develop and implement a framework for testing and certification of how standards are implemented in smart grid devices, systems and processes. NIST is consulting with industry, government and other stakeholders to develop a plan for a testing and certification framework by the end of 2009 and take steps toward implementation in 2010.

On the Net:


ICUEE 2009 Drives into Louisville


By Kathleen Davis, senior editor

The International Construction and Utility Equipment Exposition (ICUEE)–also know as The Demo Show–opened its doors to a huge crowd and a registration line that twisted its way through the lobby Tuesday, Oct. 6 at the Kentucky Exposition Center in Louisville. By the close of the first day, the 2009 ICUEE show had nearly 16,000 registered attendees.

“While it’s still a down economy, attendees are telling us they need to be here to check out what’s happening in the industry, to see and compare the equipment and technologies, and to exchange information and experiences with their peers,” show director Melissa Magestro said.

The expo contained more than 1 million net square feet of exhibits (or about 25 acres), including indoor booths and outdoor demonstrations. This biennial construction and utility expo is geared to professionals in the electric, phone and cable, sewer and water, gas, general construction, landscaping and public works sector.

The show featured a large show floor and educational sessions, including “Getting Smart About the Smart Grid,” which brought together experts from the GridWise Alliance, GE, Duke Energy and others to educate the more hands-on ICUEE crowd about the future of electricity.

Session moderator Erich Gunther of EnerNex labeled the session “smart grid boot camp,” telling the audience that they will learn “everything you always wanted to know about smart grid … and can ask here today.” The smart grid, while it covers a range of technologies and infrastructures, is really about creating self-healing and adaptive systems, at its core. With the smart grid, electric utilities will be predictive rather than reactive. First, utilities will start with existing systems and progressively link them together, Gunther said.

The smart grid session was a part of the overall ICUEE conference, but sessions were available across multiple conferences during the week. Three shows are co-located with ICUEE, including the inaugural water show H20-XPO from the National Rural Water Association (NRWA), the IP Safety Conference and Expo and the IVU Technology Conference. This year in Louisville, the NRWA also held its annual convention in conjunction with IEEE.

Some companies introduce new products at the ICUEE show. Ramsey introduced and demonstrated two new electronic control systems: NexStar, a crane management system, and ECM, an electronic cable management system. Stellar Industries showed a new line of telescopic service cranes equipped with their Crane Dynamics Technology. TT Technologies introduced a trenchless method for replacing plastic and copper services at the show. Additionally, DUECO announced that two Wisconsin utilities, Marshfield and Plymouth, had added the company’s plug-in hybrid utility trucks to their fleets.

ICUEE featured more than 780 exhibitors Oct. 6-8.

ICUEE traces its beginnings to 1964 when Illinois Bell invited 12 trencher manufacturers to demonstrate equipment on the same day in the same field in Elburn, Ill. Owned by the Association of Equipment Manufacturers, the North American-based international trade and business development group serves the off-road equipment industry. ICUEE moved to Louisville in 1987.


Future of the Grid Discussed at NELPI Convention


By Jeff Postelwait, online/associate editor

Supply and demand, regulatory challenges and transmission were all issues discussed Oct. 7 by panelists and speakers at the University of Tulsa, where the National Energy Law Policy Institute (NELPI) presented its conference on the national energy grid, “Power for the 21st Century: Reinventing America’s Energy Grid.”

The first panel session centered on the industry’s shift to alternative fuels and renewable energy. Rich Sedano, director of the Regulatory Assistance Project, presented information on energy efficiency, demand-side management and conservation.

“The recession has presented us with an opportunity to think about making changes in the way things are organized with respect to energy efficiency,” Sedano said.

Demand-side management may be a strange idea to many utilities, he said, but the idea could catch on once some changes in the policy structure are made.

“Policy impacts the ease of participation here,” Sedano said. “We can make this easy or we can make this hard.”

Les Dillahunty, senior vice president of engineering and regulatory policy for the Southwest Power Pool, encouraged his audience to take an active role in advocating for improved transmission rather than waiting for any kind of federal action.

“President Obama said during the campaign that he would provide change we can believe in, and that may hold true for transmission, but the cost of doing nothing is too high,” he said. “We need not wait on Washington “. We know enough right now to know that now is the time to move forward with transmission.”

Rich Lordan, technical director, power and delivery markets with the Electric Power Research Institute spoke on the need for improved transmission.

“I can’t see a way to get to 20 percent nonhydro renewable energy federally without a lot of AC/DC transmission upgrades,” Lordan said.

Integrating more wind and solar power onto the grid presents its own set of problems, Lordan said.

“Wind and solar give me headaches and they give operators headaches because they don’t behave like fossil power,” he said, referring to the intermittency problems of both types of renewable generation.

“The operator has to balance generation and load every second of every year, and with more wind and solar, this becomes harder and harder,” he said.

Carl Huslig, president of ITC Great Plains, said the transmission system in the U.S. was built with borders in mind.

Transmission is key because no solution currently proposed is possible without more investment in transmission, he said.




On page 48 of the October 2009 issue, author Paul Molitor’s biography was cut off at the end of his article. POWERGRID International’s editors apologize for this error. Molitor is the National Electrical Manufacturers Association’s (NEMA’s) smart grid director.


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