Boeing Powers Up a Smart Grid Vision

By Kathleen Davis, Senior Editor

With the smart grid on the horizon, this industry has seen a lot of corporate repositioning. Generation players suddenly want to be T&D players. The transmission end of things wants to push past distribution and into a consumer’s home. Yet, even with all the interior movement, it is still rare for a company outside the power industry to come knocking—extremely rare. Yet, that seems to be just what’s happening with major aerospace and defense company Boeing.

There’s been chatter about Boeing’s new involvement in the smart grid for months; insider blogs have talked about the possibility extensively (admittedly, even my own). Then, in late November, Boeing was selected to receive federal stimulus funds with some work on smart grid platforms here in the U.S., a move that served double-duty as a public announcement that the company is looking seriously at the T&D side of power. Boeing received an $8.5 million grant to lead one project team and is involved with two other projects (with Consolidated Edison and Southern California Edison).

In mid-December, POWERGRID International spoke with Tim Noonan, vice president of Boeing Advanced Global Services and Support, about the company’s history, its view on grid security and Boeing’s vision of that smart grid horizon.


Everything Old is New Again

 In an interesting twist, Boeing is actually not a brand new player to T&D, although it is rather rusty at it, having left T&D behind nearly three decades ago. The company’s decision to return to this industry came about from discussions with a single utility. Consolidated Edison Company of New York (Con Edison) was considering a few upgrades and some changes to make the smart grid more of a reality. Since Boeing developed Con Edison’s supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) system 25 years ago, Con Edison shared its concerns with Boeing regarding large-scale integration and cyber security. Boeing was no longer in the power business, but it could address those concerns.

Con Edison, in turn, agreed to discuss with Boeing the technology the utility had versus the technology the utility needed—and just how to get functionality from old systems that might help with new issues (like the inclusion of hybrid vehicles and security upgrades).

According to Noonan, the discussions with Con Edison started a little over a year ago and Boeing began to connect some unusual dots—the expertise Boeing had in the defense industry gave them an edge with the utility industry.

“As we started to understand the challenges that Con Edison faced, we noticed parallels with the defense industry: Lots of long-term, older assets that needed to be upgraded but, additionally, needed to be more interactive,” Noonan said.

“Like the B-52,” he added. “That’s an old plane, but it is still used today by the Department of Defense (DOD) since it’s kept up-to-date.”

Once Boeing realized that the fragmented and regulated business models of the DOD seemed akin to those in the power industry, the challenge became how to apply its knowledge in new ways. The company started rethinking the processes involved with the smart grid, focusing on a common information model, service-oriented architecture (SOA), cyber security and standards.


Grid Examinations

 “The grid is vulnerable,” Noonan said. “Connecting and protecting this important asset is essential.”

With protection being a Boeing comfort zone, the company started cross-applying a few development concepts and systems it had worked on with the Army, including communication issues like “shrinking the sensor-to-shooter loop,” as Noonan called it—which could be summed up as making it easier and faster to acquire, analyze and distribute smart grid data, a “sensor-to-system” loop.

“Smart grid has the same great potential as launching men into space once did. Boeing helped make that launch possible, and we even made the first microgrid, of sorts, within the space station. We can make the smart grid possible as well. It’s such an interesting challenge,” Noonan added.

Noonan admits that there are, of course, a few hurdles for Boeing to overcome: differences in the types and applications of SOA and a need to work with partners to increase the company’s subject matter expertise. But, it appears that Boeing is up to the task.

Noonan sees Boeing’s distinct advantage revolving around a military-level cyber security focus for smart grid, something that Boeing’s background helps make a competitive advantage. In the end, the global footprint that the company has earned in defense and aerospace may easily work for Boenig in establishing itself in the T&D industry.

“Boeing really wants to show the value of an interoperable, well-secured grid platform, and the company will invest as needed to satisfy customer demand in that area,” Noonan added. “We aim to create new products, services and jobs for the country.”

A unit of The Boeing Company, Boeing Integrated Defense Systems is one of the world’s largest space and defense businesses specializing in innovative and capabilities-driven customer solutions, and the world’s largest and most versatile manufacturer of military aircraft, according to the company. Headquartered in St. Louis, Boeing Integrated Defense Systems is a $32 billion business with 70,000 employees worldwide.


NYISO Celebrates Milestone

 By Kathleen Davis, Senior Editor

The New York Independent System Operator (NYISO), a not-for-profit company created to operate New York’s bulk electricity grid and administer the state’s wholesale electricity markets, marked its 10th anniversary in December 2009. The NYISO is one of 10 independent system operators and regional transmission organizations in North America which, together, offer power to about two-thirds of electricity consumers in the U.S. and half of Canadian consumers as well.

POWERGRID International spoke with Stephen G. Whitley, NYISO president and CEO in December about the anniversary and the future for the NYISO.

PGI: NYISO celebrated a decade of service in December. Give us a bit of history on how the ISO came to be.

Stephen G. Whitley, NYISO president and CEO
SW: In the 1990s, the federal and state government initiated an array of policy changes to restructure the electric industry. In 1996, the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) issued orders that opened access to the nation’s transmission grid and encouraged the creation of “independent” entities to administer wholesale electricity markets. In New York State, the Public Service Commission (PSC), in 1997, ordered the “unbundling” of electric supply and delivery, strongly encouraging utilities to divest their generation and open access to transmission.

The creation of the NYISO as the “independent entity” in New York was authorized by FERC in 1998. The formal transfer of the responsibilities from the New York Power Pool (which was a voluntary collaboration of the utilities and power authorities set up after the 1965 Northeast Blackout to coordinate operation of New York’s bulk electricity grid) to the NYISO took place on December 1, 1999.

PGI: What’s been the ISO’s biggest accomplishment in that decade?

SW: In the words of Independent Market Advisor Dr. David Patton of Potomac Economics, “NYISO now operates the most complete and efficient set of electricity markets in the U.S.” The NYISO markets have led to new generation and interstate transmission connections built where power is needed the most, incented increased power plant efficiency and availability, fostered the creation and growth of demand-side innovations, and provided fertile ground for renewable “green power” resources such as wind power.

While the cost of fuel drove the price of power higher during much of the past decade, the numbers in New York show that—after adjusting for the cost of fuel—the markets have helped to otherwise reduce wholesale prices. In fact, if it had not been for the increases in the cost of fuel, competitive markets would have yielded wholesale prices for electricity, including both generating capacity and energy, 18 percent lower than in the year 2000, or over $2 billion on a current annual basis.

PGI: What’s been your biggest hurdle?

SW: America’s first Energy Czar, James Schlesinger, said that when it comes to our nation’s approach to energy, “We have only two modes: complacency and panic.”

The best path to the middle ground between complacency and panic is paved with information and understanding. Among the biggest challenges for anyone in the electricity industry is the daunting task of helping people understand the complexity of the system. People have the right to expect reliability, to have the lights go on when they flip the switch. They haven’t been expected to know or understand where the power comes from or how it gets to their homes.

But, that is going to change. For economic and environmental reasons, we need to help consumers develop the knowledge they need to be better, more efficient users of electricity. Smart grid technology can empower consumers to make more cost-conscious and environmentally conscientious choices about energy. But we need to raise awareness to help consumers achieve a level of knowledge that enables them to get the most value from the new technology.

PGI: What do you foresee as major issues for the next decade?

SW: Making the grid smarter, greener and more efficient.

The NYISO’s strategic objectives include the deployment of smart grid technologies and protocols to help consumers make more informed decisions about their energy use. At the NYISO, we are working closely with the state and federal government on the continued cultivation of “Ëœgreen power’ resources. We are also looking at the development of broader regional markets to extend and expand the benefits of competition as well as the enhancement of interregional planning to provide a wider horizon for improvements in reliability.

PGI:With these 10 years of experience under your belt, what advice would you give utilities and other system operators as we all evolve to a smarter grid?

SW: Work together. Collabora-tion is key.

Our success has been built on a commitment to consensus. Shared governance has been crucial to the successful evolution of the NYISO. Our stakeholder committees are comprised of representatives of market sectors that include transmission owners, generation owners, other suppliers, end-use consumers, public power and environmental parties. Shared governance provides a forum that allows a diverse array of viewpoints to be heard.

Collaboration can be time-consuming work. In 2008, our shared governance process included 245 meetings, involving monthly meetings of the major committees and frequent sessions of sub-committees, task forces and working groups.

Under the NYISO’s governance agreements, changes to our federal tariffs can be made in two ways: through a filing approved by a majority of our stakeholders and our board of directors, or a party can file a complaint. Since the inception of the NYISO, 95 percent of the tariff revisions filed with FERC have resulted from consensus. FERC noted the value of our shared governance in a January 2008 order that stated: “The Commission commends NYISO and the stakeholders for working together to resolve many issues “”

Our experience suggests that extensive collaboration builds the most solid foundation for success. The results are well worth the investment of time and effort.

More information on NYISO’s history and goals is available in its 10-year anniversary report, “Lighting the Way,” available for download at the NYISO Web site:



 “- Committee Plans POWERGRID Europe 2010 Conference: The POWERGRID Europe committee finalized the details of the upcoming June 2010 conference sessions. The sessions will include the IET giving an overview of smart grid developments, a look at technology details and a panel to discuss international smart cities from Amsterdam’s Climate Street project to Masdar. POWERGRID Europe runs June 8-10, 2010 at the RAI in Amsterdam.

“- TenneT Acquires German Grid Operator: In mid-November, TenneT announced the acquisition of the German high voltage grid operator transpower stromàƒ¼bertragungs GmbH (part of E.ON AG). TenneT will become the owner of transpower with effect from 1 January 2010. The agreed enterprice value of transpower will be EUR 885 million.

“- Vattenfall Taps eMeter for Grid Management: Vattenfall Group, has selected eMeter’s EnergyIP, meter data management system to provide essential capabilities in support of Vattenfall’s smart metering initiative. The objective of the project is to improve operational and energy efficiency while increasing exemplary satisfaction approval ratings with customers. Vattenfall began adoption of intelligent metering in 2002.

“- Capgemini European Energy Markets Observatory Report Highlights Turning Point for Utilities: Capgemini, supported by Sociàƒ©tàƒ© Gàƒ©nàƒ©rale Global Research & Strategy, CMS Bureau Francis Lefebvre and VaasaETT, announced in late November 2009 the results of the eleventh edition of the European Energy Markets Observatory (EEMO) report. The report outlines how the global recession has put utilities under pressure with expectations of a historical drop in global electricity consumption (-3.5 percent), forcing them to take short-term and longer term measures. In the short-term, utilities are deferring or cancelling investments in much needed infrastructure and also divesting assets; in the longer term, a deeper change in their business models is needed. In addition, the report indicates that there is still action needed on climate-change issues in order to meet the 2020 objectives laid out by the EU Climate and Energy Package, although the European Union is ahead of other regions in this area.

“- KEMA Opens High Voltage Laboratory: KEMA officially opened the doors to its new high voltage laboratory (HVL) in Arnhem, the Netherlands, in October. The opening coincided with KEMA Conference and was celebrated with the ceremonious unveiling of a dedicated statue, led by Clemens Cornielje, Governor of the Province of Gelderland. The new HVL will function as an independent laboratory for testing and certification of high- and medium-voltage components used in electrical infrastructure. From the lab, KEMA will issue type test certificates and test reports for tests on cables, cable accessories, insulators, power transformers, instrument transformers, GIS, switchgear, panels and other components.



 SEL Makes China’s Grid Smarter

 Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories, Inc. (SEL) was selected by the second largest utility in China to provide needed equipment for the first phase of a distribution automation (DA) project in Guangzhou. SEL supplied 155 SEL-487E Transformer Protection Relays and 200 SEL-2411 Programmable Automation Controllers (PACs) to China Southern Power Grid Co., Ltd. (CSG), which provides power to 230 million people in five southern Chinese provinces—a one-million-square-kilometer service area.

“SEL is breaking into the utility industry in China, which has been dominated by domestic manufacturers,”according to Dexi Yan, regional marketing and sales manager for SEL China. “We are entering areas outside of protection to encompass solutions for distribution automation.”

The SEL-487E Relays and SEL-2411 PACs form the foundation for CSG’s feeder terminal unit (FTU) applications in the Guangzhou DA system. More than 300,000 FTUs will be required when the system is completed in three years. The SEL equipment will collect and transfer electrical signals, communicate with the main substation, identify and locate faults, and record events.

Featuring long-distance, large-capacity, ultra-high-voltage, and hybrid ac and dc operation, the CSG network is one of the most complicated and technically advanced power grids in the world. This year, CSG ranked 185th among the Fortune Global 500 of the world’s largest corporations and 11th among Chinese corporations.

The DA system for Guangzhou, the third most populous city in mainland China with 8 million people, will automate every 10 kV feeder in the city, Yan said. Guangzhou will not be the only city to benefit from the improved system. By the end of next year, 63 southern Chinese cities will be part of the project’s scope, affecting all customers in the CSG service area.

“Once the system is in, it will greatly improve reliability and recovery time,” Yan said.


 Johns Hopkins, Texas A&M: We Can Predict Hurricane-Related Power Outages

 Using data from Hurricane Katrina and four other destructive storms, researchers from Johns Hopkins and Texas A&M universities say they’ve found a way to accurately predict power outages in advance of a hurricane. Their approach estimates the number of outages that will occur across a region as a hurricane approaches.

The information provided by their computer models has the potential to save utilities substantial amounts of money, savings that can then be passed on to customers, the researchers say. In addition, appropriate crew levels and placements can help facilitate rapid restoration of power after the storm.

The study was a collaborative effort involving Seth Guikema, an assistant professor of geography and environmental engineering at Johns Hopkins and formerly of Texas A&M; Steven Quiring, an assistant professor of geography at Texas A&M; and Seung-Ryong Han, who was Guikema’s doctoral student at Texas A&M and is now based at Korea University.

The research focused on two common challenges. When a hurricane is approaching, an electric power provider must decide how many repair crews to request from other utilities, a decision that may cost the provider millions of dollars. The utility also must decide where to locate crews within its service areas to enable fast and efficient service restoration after the hurricane. Having accurate estimates prior to the storm’s arrival of how many outages will exist and where they will occur will allow utilities to better plan their crew requests and crew locations, the researchers say.

What makes the research team’s computational approach unique and increases its accuracy, Guikema and Quiring say, is the combination of more detailed information about the storm, the area it is impacting and the power system of the area, together with more appropriate statistical models.

“If the power company overestimates, it has spent a lot of unnecessary money,” Quiring said. “If it underestimates, the time needed to restore power can take several extra days or longer, which is unacceptable to them and the people they serve. So these companies need the best estimates possible, and we think this study can help them make the best possible informed decision.”

In developing their computer model, the researchers looked at damage data from five hurricanes: Dennis (1995), Danny (1997), Georges (1998), Ivan (2004) and Katrina (2005). In the areas studied, Ivan created 13,500 power outages; Katrina, more than 10,000; Dennis, about 4,800; Georges, 1,075; and Danny, 620.

For the worst of these storms, some customers were without power for up to 11 days. The research team collected information about the locations of outages in these past hurricanes, with an outage defined as permanent loss of power to a set of customers due to activation of a protective device in the power system.

The researchers also included information about the power system in each area (poles, transformers, etc.), hurricane wind speeds, wetness of the soil, long-term average precipitation, the land use, local topography and other related factors. This data was then used to train and validate a statistical regression model called a Generalized Additive Model, a particular form of model that can account for nonlinear relationships between the variables.


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