Electric utilities are making progress in upgrading their customers’ analog electric meters with digital smart meters, according to an Institute for Electric Efficiency (IEE) report.

As of May, IEE found that almost 1 in 3 households have a smart meter. This is up from about 1 in 4 households in September 2011. IEE projects that by mid-decade, more than half of U.S. households will have a smart meter.

“Our results show that electric utilities are committed to upgrading their customers’ meters as part of the industry’s overall goal to modernize the nation’s electric grid,” said Lisa Wood, IEE executive director. “By the end of this year, we predict that 22 electric utilities in 16 states will have smart meters installed systemwide. The new smart meters are already benefitting customers.”

Southern Co. Services CEO Susan Story said that smart meters notify the utility when customers are without power.

“Receiving this information in real time allows us to expedite our power restoration efforts and get the power back on sooner,” Story said.

In addition to power notification and outage management benefits, smart meters open the door to other customer benefits. For instance, smart meters and smart rate plans are helping Oklahoma’s OG&E Electric Services manage peak demand and defer the need to build an additional power plant this decade.

Smart meters have changed the way OG&E interacts with customers and how customers view and use electricity, said Peter Delaney, OG&E CEO.

“Last year, over 90 percent of our customers on SmartHours, a peak-sensitive time-of-use plan, saved money,” he said. “Plans like SmartHours help us better manage peak demand and can defer the need for a new power plant this decade.”

Utilities also use smart meter data to help customers conserve electricity, set spending and usage goals and receive notifications when usage is high, Wood said.

“In parts of California and in Texas, for example, homeowners can go online to see how much electricity their home used in the previous day,” she said. “This awareness prompts consumers to take steps to conserve.”

Utilities such as NV Energy have built easy-to-use tools powered by smart meter data to help customers set usage or dollar-amount thresholds and notifications for when their accounts exceed the thresholds. These tools empower customers to understand their electricity usage and lower their bills.

Helping customers use the data that smart meters record and transmit is one objective of the White House Green Button initiative, Wood said.

“This is a voluntary industry effort to create a standard format for energy-consumption data recorded by smart meters,” she said. “As of May, 21 utilities and electricity suppliers have committed to bringing the Green Button to 30 million customers. Today, about 10 million customers have access to their energy-consumption data in the Green Button format.”


An Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) report includes practical tips for utilities as they develop and implement cybersecurity strategies for grid modernization.

“Cyber Security Strategy Guidance for the Electric Sector” is a technical update that provides guidance to utilities that are developing overall cybersecurity strategies, developing risk-management processes–including risk assessment–and selecting and tailoring cybersecurity requirements for the electric sector.

Smart grid technologies are introducing millions of intelligent components to the electric grid that are advancing communication: two-way communication, dynamic optimization and wired and wireless communications.

Cybersecurity is important because the bidirectional flow of two-way communications and the control capabilities in the smart grid will enable new functionalities and applications. Visit for the report.


Capgemini’s global study shows 9 in 10 business leaders believe data is the fourth factor of production–as fundamental to business as land, labor and capital.

The report was conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit among 600 senior business and information technology executives worldwide.

  • Big data tops the list. Some two-thirds of respondents in North America believe big data will be a significant issue in the next five years; 58 percent plan to invest more in big data in the next three years.
  • Big data’s next battle: unstructured data. Nearly 4 in 10 respondents in North America–39 percent–said unstructured data is too difficult to interpret. Many employees are familiar with spreadsheets and relational databases, but they struggle with tools to interpret unstructured data such as text analytics and sentiment analytics.
  • Stop silos from seizing data. To be data-driven, organizations must release their data from departmental and process silos to enable, for example, the integration of sales data with customer relationship management data of existing customers to create a more holistic picture. According to 51 percent of North American respondents, the barrier of organizational silos is the second biggest challenge to data-driven decision-making.

Some two-thirds of 168 North American executives surveyed believe big data will be a significant issue in the next five years and one that must be addressed so the organization can make informed decisions. They consider their companies as data-driven, reporting that data collection and analysis underpins the business strategy and daily decision-making.

Fifty-five percent already make management decisions based on hard analytic information. In addition, 44 percent said the increasing volume of data collected by their organizations from internal and external sources has slowed decision-making, but 84 percent said the larger issue is being able to analyze and act on it in real time.

“The exploitation of big data is fueling a major change in the quality of business decision-making, requiring organizations to adopt new and more effective methods to obtain the most meaningful results from their data that generate value,” said Scott Schlesinger, vice president and head of business information management at Capgemini. “Organizations that do so will be able to monitor customer behaviors and market conditions with greater certainty and react with speed and effectiveness to differentiate from their competition.”


The Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) demonstrated the first prototype 2.4-kV 45-kVA-based, solid-state, direct current (DC) fast-charging technology for electric vehicles (EVs) in February at its Knoxville, Tenn., laboratory.

The demonstration was conducted using a Nissan Leaf and Mitsubishi i-MiEV.

EPRI demonstrated the communication capability of the fast-charging technology with EV battery-management systems.

The demonstration verified the communications compatibility of the fast-charging technology with the EVs’ battery-management systems using the industry-standard CHAdeMO communications protocol.

EPRI’s next step will be to build a fast charger prototype with 8-kV input, which would represent compatibility with a 15-kV class distribution system.

This second prototype will demonstrate the viability of EPRI’s Utility Direct Fast Charger design for 15-kV class systems that use a medium-voltage level such as 12.47 kV, 13.8 kV, etc.


G&W Electric Co., a supplier of power automation systems, switchgear and cable accessories, recently dedicated its Bolingbrook, Ill., global headquarters and manufacturing plant during a ribbon cutting.

“This facility marks the start of a new era for G&W, providing the room we need for our continued growth and a safe and comfortable working environment for our 400-plus Illinois-based employees,” said John H. Mueller, G&W chairman.

A longtime native to the Chicago area, the family-owned, 107-year-old company moved from Blue Island, Ill., where it resided more than 50 years.

“The new facility is more than double the size of our previous Blue Island manufacturing operation and gives us the room we need to support our growing customer base, continue our R&D efforts, improve order lead times and maximize product quality,” Mueller said.

The new address is 305 W. Crossroads Parkway, Bolingbrook, IL 60440.

PLMA Report: Strong DR Growth Potential in C&I

A new research report indicates strong growth potential for demand response (DR), especially in the commercial sector, which was selected by more than 50 percent as the sector with the highest growth potential.

The Peak Load Management Alliance (PLMA) released the results.

The research was conducted by Skipping Stone with the industry professionals attending the PLMA/Con Edison spring conference in New York City.

A majority believe that to compel that growth, utility incentives or finance programs will be required to overcome the implementation cost barrier, which ranked as the highest impediment to customer adoption. Technology advances were cited as the second-highest requirement to achieving customer adoption. The industry professionals surveyed also believe a significant percentage of existing manual DR customers will migrate to automated DR. Respondents overwhelmingly indicated they believe the North American Electric Reliability Corp.’s initiative to track DR will result in market acceptance of DR as a reliability asset.

“The survey results confirm that demand response markets have a lot of room for growth as the market matures,” said Elliot Boardman, PLMA executive director. “Results further validate that market changes, such as the migration from manual to auto and the use of demand response as a reliability asset, are expected to have a positive impact on the marketplace.”

Ross Malme, PLMA board member and Skipping Stone partner, said the survey shows a call to action by utilities, regulators and finance companies to develop economic incentives or finance programs for the commercial and industrial (C&I) sector.

“Customers are willing and the grid needs demand response to work,” Malme said. “Technology costs have come down dramatically, and now it’s time for regulators to support utility incentive programs and for savvy finance companies to step in to capture this growth opportunity.”

The report is available for free download at Click on the link to PLMA Spring 2012 Survey Report.


Yahoo Mail users will spend $110 more on electricity this year compared with Gmail users, according to Opower.

Using its behavioral science and patent-pending data analytics, the global energy information software company found that on average, Yahoo Mail users consume 939 kilowatt-hours (kWh) more than Gmail users–about 11 percent more electricity per year.

By analyzing consumer energy information with more than 70 utilities, including eight of the largest in the U.S., and containing data from 40 million homes, Opower looked at the correlation between email address and electricity usage across 2.8 million U.S. households. Some 1.15 million of those households are Gmail or Yahoo users spread across 23 states and several distinct climate zones.

Gmail users consume less energy than those with Yahoo Mail because of the users, according to Opower. Its data indicates Yahoo Mail households are more likely to live in larger residences and use more electricity per square foot. Gmail users tend to live in cities where dwellings are often more compact and energy-efficient. Opower found Gmail users are more likely to sign up for an in-depth analysis of their home energy usage.

Yahoo Mail users cannot switch email accounts to reduce their energy consumption, but they can adopt simple ways to cut back: turning off computers at night, getting programmable thermostats or upgrading heating systems.

“Making energy consumption relevant to consumers is something that Opower strives to do every day,” said Alex Laskey, Opower president. “We hope that by analyzing the data that we have on over 40 million homes and providing insights about how Americans are using electricity, we can make the topic interesting and inspire people to make changes in the way they consume energy.”


A new report by the State and Local Energy Efficiency Action Network (SEE Action) prepared by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory researchers provides guidance and recommendations on ways to rigorously estimate energy savings from residential behavior-based efficiency programs.

The report was designed for regulators, evaluation professionals, program administrators and other energy efficiency program stakeholders.

Residential behavior-based energy efficiency programs are a major potential source of new energy savings and increasingly are being implemented by energy efficiency administrators nationwide to help meet energy-saving targets and requirements in many states.

These programs use strategies intended to affect consumer energy-use behaviors to achieve energy and peak-demand savings. They typically use one or more elements to achieve their goals, including customer outreach, energy-usage feedback, competition, rewards, benchmarking or feedback elements. Such programs might focus on changes to consumers’ habitual, one-time and purchasing behaviors.

The widespread adoption of these programs faces obstacles, including questions about whether observed energy savings are valid and attributable to the behavior program, whether the savings persist and whether results for one program can be applied to other programs.

“We need rigorous, objective evaluation methods for these programs,” said Malcolm Woolf, director of the Maryland Energy Administration and a leader of SEE Action for issues related to evaluation, measurement and verification (EM+V). “Strong standards ensure that program administrators, policymakers and regulators can be confident that the savings estimates claimed by these programs are valid.” 



PowerMatching City honored as top 100 sustainable solution

A live smart grid project with 25 households in the northern part of the Netherlands shows a smart grid can be created with a corresponding market model using existing technologies.

PowerMatching City lets consumers exchange electricity freely without diminished comfort. The 25 homes in Hoogkerk were connected with one another as part of the trial and equipped with micro combined heat and power systems (high-efficiency boilers), hybrid heat pumps, smart meters, photovoltaic panels, charging stations for electric vehicles and other smart household appliances to form a smart energy system.

“With the share of renewable energy going up strongly over the next decades, the rising demand for electricity and consumers who are increasingly providing in their own energy supply, it is evident that smart grids will have an essential position in our future energy system,” said Frits Bliek, PowerMatching City program coordinator.

Following the successful results, the project has been continued and expanded. This follow-up phase focuses more on the effects of expanding to some 70 households, consumer involvement via an interactive interface and the effect of introducing real-life customer propositions developed by energy company Essent.

The PowerMatching City program is conducted by distribution system operator Enexis, Essent, gas infrastructure company Gasunie, system integrator ICT Automatisering and knowledge institute TNO, led by energy consulting, testing and certification firm DNV KEMA Energy & Sustainability. Knowledge partners are Delft University of Technology, Eindhoven University of Technology and Hanze University of Applied Sciences Groningen.

PowerMatching City recently was chosen for the Sustainia100, a list of solutions launched at Rio+20, the U.N. Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro. Gathered from 56 countries across six continents, Sustainia100 is a guide for sustainability professionals from politicians to CEOs dedicated to create desirable, sustainable societies. Individually, the solutions represent sustainable innovation in areas such as city planning, energy, fashion, water and waste management, high-tech and transportation. Collectively, they provide a guide of the building blocks available for transforming societies.

World leaders in sustainability launch Sustainia100 in Rio de Janeiro. Pictured are, from left: EU Commissioner for Climate Action Connie Hedegaard; Gro Harlem Brundtland, former Norway prime minister and member of the U.N. Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel on Global Sustainability; and Rajendra Pachauri, chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

“PowerMatching City plays a pioneering role in the development of smart grids and in the transition towards a sustainable energy system,” Bliek said. “We are therefore very proud that our project has been selected for this prestigious list of sustainable solutions. It is a strong recognition for all the work the partners have together realized.”

Sustainia100 is a cornerstone in Sustainia, a sustainable-future concept developed by Scandinavian think tank Monday Morning with world-leading companies, organizations and experts (Microsoft Corp., General Electric Co., DNV, Philips Lighting, DONG Energy, Novo Nordisk, Tetra Pak, Cisco Systems Inc., Interface Flor, BIG Architects, Knoll, Ikea, Vestas, Velux, Realdania, Scandinavian Airlines SAS, Ramboll, UBS Investment Bank), the U.N. Global Compact and former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s initiative R20 Regions of Climate Action.

Sustainia100 solutions are nominees for the Sustainia Award, which honors outstanding performance within sustainability. The winner will be announced at a ceremony later this year in Copenhagen.

Siemens acquiring smart grid company in Brazil

As part of a $1 billion investment during the next five years in Brazil, Siemens is expanding its capabilities in the smart grid market with the acquisition of an unnamed smart grid company.

This follows the May opening of Siemens’ first research and development center focused on developing smart grid solutions in Curitiba in the southern state of Paraná.

Part of the $1 billion investment will focus on future energy markets. In addition to the smart grid market investments, this will include an initial $60 million investment in a new factory in Brazil to produce high- and low-voltage motors and generators for the domestic market and export. A new R&D center geared toward the oil and gas industry also will open in Rio de Janeiro.

Other investment areas include the industry, infrastructure and cities and health care sectors, with a special focus on localizing production and services and driving R&D.



Opower, First Utility unveil energy program

Opower and First Utility, the largest independent domestic energy provider in the U.K., recently unveiled the My Energy program that will put information about energy use and efficiency tips into the hands of U.K. customers for the first time.

Opower programs similar to My Energy have helped consumers save more than $120 million across 10 million households.

First Utility customers will start receiving information detailing how their usage compares with their neighbors’ usage and personalized tips to reduce energy consumption.

During coming months, further functionality will be added, including alerts that let customers receive emails and text messages warning when their energy usage is higher than normal.

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