DR Pilot Project Results from Oklahoma, Ontario

Energate Inc., a provider of residential demand response home energy management solutions, revealed the results of two successful pilot projects undertaken in Oklahoma and Ontario, Canada. These projects are among more than 25 smart grid pilots across North America featuring Energate’s technologies.

In its pilot project with Oklahoma Gas and Electric Co. (OG&E), Energate’s Pioneer Smart Thermostats enabled residential consumers to achieve a peak reduction of 1.92 kilowatts (kW) per home representing a peak reduction of more than 50 percent, far surpassing the goal of 1.3 kW.

Energate partnered with Silver Spring Networks, a provider of smart grid platforms, and OG&E to roll out technology that allowed consumers to manage energy for optimal use with in-home devices, Internet portals or both to get pricing and usage information.

In the Ontario pilot, more than 99 percent of Energate’s on-line devices responded to load control signals, with verification of data collected and reporting in real-time, meeting the advanced criteria of the Ontario Power Authority (OPA) pilot.

Energate also completed a six-month pilot project with the OPA to deploy its Consumer-Connected Demand Response (CCDR) solution platform for residences in the Peterborough, Hamilton and Kitchener-Waterloo-Cambridge areas to control home energy use via the Internet while giving consumers access to smart meter data. The project used smart thermostats on air conditioning units, load-control switches on water heaters and pool pumps, and energy displays paired with smart meters to share real-time data. A Web-based portal enabled consumers to easily program thermostats remotely to manage home comfort and energy use.

Even though the OPA pilot has ended, fewer than 10 percent of the homeowners have opted to return the Energate devices. Participants keeping the Energate smart thermostat can test new and advanced features that were not used in the pilot.

J.D. Power and Associates Reports on Customers, Smart Meters

Although implementation of smart grid utility systems is still in its infancy in most of the United States, satisfaction is higher among electric utility customers whose households are equipped with smart meters, compared with customers without them, J.D. Power and Associates announced at the Edison Electric Institute (EEI) 2011 Annual Convention in Colorado Springs, Colo., in June.

While only 8 percent of electric utility customers indicate their home has a smart meter, overall satisfaction among these customers averages 667 (on a 1,000-point scale), 43 points higher than among customers whose homes are not equipped with smart meters. Research by J.D. Power also indicates that customers who are aware of smart grids and smart meters, as well as their utility’s efforts to implement them, are notably more satisfied than are customers without this awareness.

“While this marks an auspicious beginning for smart meter and smart grid programs, gaining widespread consumer acceptance is incumbent upon successful consumer education, adoption and engagement with the technology,” said David Steele, senior director of the smart energy practice at J.D. Power and Associates. “It’s imperative for energy providers to understand the actual drivers of effective program design and customer communications that will lead consumers to engage with these new options and services.”

Smart Grid Highlights from South America

In June, Northeast Group released its latest report titled South America Smart Grid Market Forecast (2011-2020). The report lists a number of key findings, including:

  • The smart meter market in South America may hit 104.5 million meters by 2020 and be worth $25.1 billion.
  • Brazil is the largest market, expected to reach 71.4 million meters and $17.1 billion by 2020.
  • Argentina (8.3 million meters and $2 billion dollars by 2020) and Chile (6.1 million meters and $1.5 billion by 2020) are the “next most attractive” smart meter markets.

“South America has strong potential to become a dynamic market for several key smart grid technologies, but to date the market has shown only pockets of development,” the report states. The report notes, however, that the smart grid offers benefits to South America beyond the consumption and efficiency issues important in the U.S. and Europe, namely in the areas of theft reduction, reliability and distributed generation connections. In fact, the report notes that electricity theft reduction is a cornerstone of the smart grid business case in the region. (In some areas in Brazil, theft rates top 40 percent; Paraguay averages a distribution loss rate of over 30 percent, according to the Northeast Group.)

More information on this report can be found online at northeast-group.com.

Microsoft, Google Call off Two Customer-oriented Devices

Microsoft and Google placed major smart grid products on the endangered list this summer.

Microsoft is discontinuing the customer energy management-based Hohm service effective May 31, 2012. The feedback from customers about the online tool was positive but the product was a victim of “slow overall market adoption of the service,” according to the Microsoft announcement on its blog.

Microsoft isn’t exiting the market entirely, however. It noted that the company would focus on items “more capable of supporting long-standing growth within this evolving market.”

The blog continues, “Microsoft Hohm has helped demonstrate the critical role of information in helping people and organizations improve how energy is generated, distributed and ultimately consumed. Microsoft will continue to focus on developing products, solutions and partnership that span a wide spectrum of industries, such as power generation, distribution grids, buildings and transportations systems.”

Microsoft listed energy-smart city solutions, its smart energy reference architecture and a climate organization as examples of how it is still making a footprint in this arena.

About a week before the Microsoft announcement, Google declared the death of its PowerMeter energy management product on its blog as well.

“Since our launch, there’s been more attention given to this notion of people easily accessing their energy data,” the blog states. But, apparently, its not enough attention to save the PowerMeter product.

The blog continues, “We’re pleased that PowerMeter has helped demonstrate the importance of this access and created something of a model. However, our efforts have not scaled as quickly as we would like, so we are retiring the service.”

PowerMeter users will be able to use the product until Sept. 16, 2011.

Both Microsoft Hohm and Google’s PowerMeter are approximately two years old.


ENTSO-E says summer OK if it doesn’t get too hot

The European Network of Transmission System Operators for Electricity’s (ENTSO-E) Summer Outlook Report 2011 finds that, in average weather conditions, the balance between generation and supply is expected to be maintained in Europe through the entire summer, although some countries will rely on imports over the whole summer period (Finland, Hungary, Poland and Latvia). In case of heat wave or drought, generation output in Europe is expected to be constrained. In France, where power plants cooled by river water may need to be reduced or turned off in such situations, a heat wave could lead to reduced margins. In September 2011, 6000 MW of imports to France could become necessary to cover the minimum required margin. In case of extreme weather conditions over extended periods and over a large geographical area, a stressed system balance might result for all of Europe.

EURELECTRIC talks smart grid evolution

EURELECTRIC, the association representing the common interests of the electricity industry on a pan-European level, released a short report titled “European Commission’s Communication on Smart Grids: from Innovation to Deployment” this summer. In it, EURELECTRIC reiterates the association’s belief that a successful implementation of a smart grid requires placing customers at the very heart of the new system. Equally, EURELECTRIC sees the smart grid as a key enabler for achieving the European Union’s ambitious energy targets, in particular integrating renewable energy sources and meeting energy efficiency targets. They noted that the smart grid will lead to a real win-win situation for both customers and the electric system as a whole, but warned that the smart grid is not an end in itself and should require an evolution toward a “smart energy system” that also incorporates generators, distribution system operators (DSOs), suppliers and customers. The association urges the development of a mindset that sees the smart grid as more than a technical infrastructure operated by DSOs. Once in place, this market platform will enable suppliers to offer new products and services to the benefit of customers. To do so, however, the association believes that regulatory incentives for investments must be delivered together with a sound market model which underpins customer engagement. This report is available for download on the Eurelectric website at eurelectric.org.


All the President’s Millions

By Kathleen Davis, Senior Editor

This summer, the Obama Administration unveiled new plans for the 21st century grid they envision, along with some millions in potential funding.

Ok, yes, the big news is that we’re not talking billions here. A couple of years ago, those pennies to support grid development stacked to the ceiling and toppled over into the big “B” money pool. But, it is a new, less-spending environment in D.C. these days.

“America cannot build a 21st century economy with a 20th century electricity system. By working with states, industry leaders and the private sector, we can build a clean, smart, national electricity system that will create jobs, reduce energy use and expand renewable energy production,” said U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu at this smart grid plan unveiling.

Fabulous. So, we’re going to build a whole new system that helps us be energy efficient and get in those solar panels and wind turbines. Good deal. So, what’s our budget? A mere $250 million in loans for smart-grid technology deployment as part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utility Service. They want to upgrade rural America.

Well, that’s nice, but the grid does range outside of rural America. It goes urban. It goes through the desert. It hits tundra and sneaks around landmarks. And, 80 percent of the American population doesn’t live in those rural areas. We live in heavily populated areas. What about us?

Now, we do have those old billions in stimulus funds granted a few years ago, but this new push for the smart grid from the Administration doesn’t really bring any new cash to the table besides those loans to help establish smarter tech in areas on the outskirts. Now, that’s understandable. Most utilities will be working in urban areas to start the smart grid transformation process. So, yes, the rural areas will likely get the short end of the smart grid stick.

Still, it is a rather sad sign of the times that all this talk about the smart grid isn’t bringing much cash with it, just lots of discussions about “public-private partnerships,” which is often code for “someone else needs to fund this.”

According to the White House, these new efforts are building “upon the historic $4.5 billion in grid modernization investments provided for in the Recovery Act—matched by contributions of more than $5.5 billion from the private sector—to modernize America’s aging energy infrastructure and provide cleaner and more reliable power.”

The new efforts include a lot of consumer issues and paperwork.

First, there’s the mention of the Gridwise Alliance’s new spin-off, Grid 21, which is all about getting the consumer into the talks about smart grid—helping quell fears, educating them about tools and savings. Second, the president promises that the Department of Energy promises to look at how to get those consumers better data and info. He might even have crossed his heart on this one.

Basically, the plan is this: They want to tell the kiddies through student programs and have them bring that information home so you can be lectured by your children about power consumption the same way you’re currently lectured about how to properly use the DVR and your iPhone. I have to hand it to them, though, kids are the perfect combinations of know-it-alls and pestering to get this job done. Those parents will assimilate, eventually, if just to make the mini lectures stop.

Also on the agenda: Everyone gets to talk about smart grid stuff at http://smartgrid.gov. There will be sharing—and maybe even some caring. It will be like an industry 12-step program, but without gulping down cold coffee in a room filled with chain smokers. Everyone will learn stuff about themselves and others and programs and consumers. And, if it weren’t all online, it might end in hugs.

My favorite smart grid idea from the Administration might the “Renewable Energy Rapid Response Team.” I had in my head this bevy of Black Hawk helicopters swooping into a site, dropping ropes down into a field where commandos would sneak in with solar panels strapped to their burly backs and a solar farm would be set up in seconds. Then, they’d be out like the wind, leaving the community to wonder over morning coffee just what happened—as they enjoy their new partial freedom from fossil fuels, of course. But, alas, this is not true. The team is basically a group of peeps to speed up paperwork—the smart grid geek squad, of sorts. They promise to ensure that the feds all talk to each other and review stuff promptly. I like the vision of my response team much better.

Those ideas, and a report, are pretty much what happened between speeches during this White House smart grid shindig.

“A 21st century grid is essential to America’s ability to lead the world in clean energy and win the future,” said John P. Holdren, President Obama’s science and technology advisor and director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy during the hubbub. “By unlocking the potential of innovation in the electric grid, we are allowing consumers and businesses to use energy more efficiently even as we help utilities provide cleaner energy and more reliable service.”

While I understand the limitations that the Administration is under these days from all sides of the political fence, rural loans for the greener pastures of America and red tape clipping alone will not unlock the potential of that 21st century grid we all want. What the grid really needs is another outlay of cold, hard cash.

But, the government purse is now zipped tight, with a hand over the clasp to ward off prying fingers. Well, at least we can all still talk about things and share on smartgrid.gov. We’ve got that going for us. We’ve got the chatter, if not the cabbage.

CIRED 2011 Kicks Off with Overview of Germany’s Power Grid Business

By Teresa Hansen, Editor in chief

Germany is facing distribution challenges, Dr. Egon Westphal, Eon’s senior vice president of networks, said during the opening forum at the 21st CIRED International Conference and Exhibition held in Frankfurt, Germany, in June. The event, which drew a crowd of 1,284 participants from 64 countries, focused on global electricity distribution. The opening forum, however, emphasized Germany’s power grid business.

Westphal said that climate targets in Germany and other European Union (EU) countries will require grid changes. The EU’s climate plan includes 20 percent electricity supply from renewable sources and 20 percent increase in energy efficiency by 2020. Germany’s goal is even more challenging—35 percent from renewable sources and 20 percent energy efficiency by 2020. Westphal said changes in electricity consumption have been initiated by new smart applications, such as smart meters, e-mobility/vehicle-to-grid and other customer programs. Bigger changes are coming, however, including changes in the electricity business environment and security of supply.

Westpahl also addressed Germany’s plan to phase out nuclear power in the next 10 years. Nuclear energy will be replaced with offshore wind coming from Germany’s northern areas. The electricity must be moved south to the population centers, requiring an adjustment to the transmission grid. To date, only 100 kilometers (km) of new transmission line have been built, Westpahl said. He said about 3,600 km of extra high-voltage line will be needed. In addition, he said à¢â€š¬20 billion of grid investment is needed to meet Germany’s 2020 goals.

Achim Zerres of Germany’s Federal Network Agency, who also spoke during the opening forum, said that 35 percent renewable energy by 2020 is ambitious, but if the goal is met, it will allow Germany to replace its nuclear power. Like Westpahl, Zerres said that Germany must expand its transmission grid. He said the grid must be expanded by 25 percent, but he doubts that the new lines will be built by 2020.

Zerres discussed the impact of Germany’s nuclear moratorium on its grid. The fall 2010 moratorium resulted in the shutdown of 8,500 MW of electricity generation. In addition, it declared nuclear power a bridge power to renewable energy. Zerres said nothing indicates that the moratorium is putting system security at risk. He said, however, that operators are having trouble keeping the network reliable and stable, but this instability is due to market conditions. He said transmission operators are using procedures created for emergencies, not for long-term use. Zerres said 1,000 MW of reserve capacity will be needed by winter to keep the transmission system safe and secure. Germany is looking at thermal plants for extra capacity but may not find it there. The last resort, Zerres said, would be to keep one of the shutdown nuclear plants on reserve.

Zerres reiterated the need for new transmission capacity in Germany. He said new transmission construction is not popular with Germans.

“Everyone wants renewable energy, but no one wants new transmission,” Zerres said.

Zerres’ cost estimate for new transmission lines in Germany was higher than Westphal’s. He said transmission investment in Germany will be à¢â€š¬30 billion to à¢â€š¬55 billion by 2020. In addition, he said the cost of new transmission in Europe will top à¢â€š¬1 trillion by 2020.

He said distribution system operators face three main challenges that will remain through 2020. They are replacing assets built in the 1970s, connecting renewable energy to the grid with full access at all times and making the network fit for smart market design.

After the opening forum, the audience adjourned to the exhibit hall for the opening reception.

The remainder of the week was filled with technical paper presentations, poster sessions, exhibiting company demonstrations and networking opportunities, including a walking gala dinner held at the Kurhaus of Wiesbaden. The organizing committee announced that the 22nd CIRED International Conference and Exhibition will be held in Stockholm, Sweden, in June 2013.

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