POWERGRID Europe Conference Shows off Amsterdam’s Smart City Initiative

By Kathleen Davis, Senior Editor and POWERGRID Europe Conference Director

POWERGRID Europe and its co-located events (POWER-GEN Europe, Nuclear Power Europe and Renewable Energy World Europe) were held in June in Amsterdam. The events were attended by 13,106 people.

Ninety-five countries were represented at the four events, along with 591 exhibiting companies. More than 650 people attended the keynote and 80 successful conference sessions were presented.

POWERGRID Europe offered two tracks containing detailed conference sessions covering the smart grid, future networks, interoperability, transmission challenges and other T&D subjects. From the smart grid vendor panel on the first day to the smart cities megasession on the final day, each session offered insight into the industry.

During the nearly weeklong event, POWERGRID Europe attendees got a close-up look at Dutch innovation and initiatives in the form of Amsterdam’s Smart City projects. Besides two specialized tech tours examining the Climate Street project within the Smart City initiatives, representatives from Smart City partners Liander, Accenture and Amsterdam Innovation Motor attended the conference.

Amsterdam Smart City is a collaboration among the inhabitants of Amsterdam, its businesses, research institutions and government authorities aimed at showing how to save energy now and in the future. Together, they are developing smart projects to change the world, and they are more than willing to show them off. Showing off one of them was the point of POWERGRID Europe’s tech tour to Climate Street.

Behind the front doors of the shops, cafes and restaurants of Utrechtstraat is a push toward the efficient, effective and sustainable. This, specifically, is the Climate Street project, but that is just one of many projects within the Amsterdam Smart City plan, which includes 15 projects pushing sustainable living, working and mobility.

Amsterdam’s Smart City planning projects are well past the second phase, with a third phase scheduled for September and completion in 2011. Despite being well-organized and engineering-focused, the projects began on the less static end of things, with what the group labels “the entrepreneurs.”

“You can over-engineer smart city programs,” said Maikel van Verseveld, a partner with Accenture, in an interview during the POWERGRID Europe 2010 conference. “Amsterdam Smart City has been under-engineered from the start.”

That might sound a bit scary–under-engineering a tech project–but thinking from the standpoint of the consumer, both residential and retail, has helped build real enthusiasm for the projects involved in Amsterdam Smart City, according to van Verseveld and Ilse van den Breemer, the project manager sustainability for the Amsterdam Innovation Motor. Breemer gave a detailed presentation on Amsterdam’s projects during the POWERGRID Europe conference.

“You can design things to death,” van Verseveld said.

Boundaries need to be pushed on the social-societal end of things for projects to really push change. It helps to find middle ground and foster real adaptation, he said.

One area on the cusp of that boundary is Climate Street in Amsterdam, where a group of retail store, bar and restaurant owners united to prove that climate change technologies (solar, electric vehicles, energy scans) can be useful to end users as well as a municipality.

Climate Street is a collection of about 140 entrepreneurs (about half bars and restaurants and the other half retail shops). Project construction along the street began in September 2009 and will continue past its original December end date into 2011.

“The entrepreneurs wanted to do something positive,” said Maaike Osieck, manger of communications with Amsterdam Smart City at a personal POWERGRID Europe tour of the area. “They started this push to do something sustainable in the area.”

The businesses technologies along Climate Street have participated in small pilots and tests for awhile and a larger rollout will begin within a few months. One participant, a five-building music store called Concerto, saw a 43 percent savings in energy (specifically with lighting) with its first pilot.

Other Smart City projects in the Amsterdam area include: a sustainable living neighborhood project in Geuzenveld with 500 in-home displays connected to smart meters in an attempt to change consumer behavior; a project in West Orange with displays, smart meters and central heating control; a sustainable work project at Ito Tower to push energy efficiency; and a sustainable mobility project to roll out 160 shore power connections for ship-to-grid issues to improve air quality and cut noise and pollution from diesel generators that have plagued the Port of Amsterdam.

For more information on Amsterdam’s Smart City projects, visit http://amsterdamsmartcity.com.

For more information about POWERGRID Europe, visit http://powergrideurope.com.

 


 

 

EYE ON EUROPE

 

POWERGRID Europe Survey Results

Delegates at the POWERGRID Europe conference in Amsterdam this June were asked a series of questions about the smart grid. The survey results follow.

 


 

 

“Constructive Interference” for the Smart Grid: Four Core Drivers to Ensure Success

 

By Adrian Tuck, Tendril

In physics, when two or more energy waves interact in sync to create a higher amplitude or intensity, it’s called constructive interference. That term could be used to describe the development of the smart grid and where it stands today. Since April 2009, when the Department of Energy (DOE) first announced plans to distribute more than $5.7 billion to fund smart grid initiatives under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the utility industry, government and entrepreneurs have been working steadily to make the smart grid a reality. As the industry has developed over the past 18 months, four core drivers of innovation in the smart grid industry have emerged. Together these four drivers are on the verge of a monumental constructive interference for smart grid. They support, challenge and check each other, as all sectors work toward a common goal.

 

Driver No. 1: CONSUMERS

 

Some high-profile examples in smart grid’s infancy demonstrate why consumer engagement is crucial to smart grid development. Despite highly publicized problems with early smart meter rollouts in California and other regions, consumers are interested in having more communication with their electricity providers to obtain greater control.

Even if they are unsure of the terminology utilities use, such as demand response and smart grid, consumers are interested in energy efficiency and energy savings, surveys show.

Among the many surveys that have been published, two consumer surveys completed by GE this year stand out.

In March, GE found that of 1,000 consumers surveyed across the country, more than three-quarters did not understand what the term smart grid meant. However, a similar survey conducted in June showed that more than half (63 percent) are willing to work with their power companies to change individual energy consumption. In addition to greater control, consumers are also beginning to demand more choices that reflect their values. For example, people want to be able to purchase greener energy. The same survey found that “80 percent believe that smart grid will help the country rely more on clean domestic energy sources such as wind, solar and biogas.”

An obvious conclusion is that consumers are ready and willing to embrace the smart grid, if it is explained to them in a way that they understand and engages them in the process. This is one area where much work remains to be done.

 

Driver No. 2: POLITICS AND REGULATION

 

Government support has been crucial to the smart grid sector’s rapid forward movement in recent months. It has provided necessary funding as well as education on the value smart grid will have to individuals, the energy industry and the nation by reducing U.S. dependence on foreign oil and allowing us to better manage the country’s long-term energy needs. Through recent stimulus grants, the smart grid industry is enjoying, with matching funds, more than $8 billion in investments. As a percentage of the overall $787 billion recovery plan approved by Congress, that investment amount may not seem like much. But the resulting microeconomic effect is substantial; 100 utilities received funding from these grants, and the more than 3,200 utilities that didn’t participate are now behind the curve in providing the capabilities and benefits their customers will demand.

Meanwhile, the federal and state governments are beginning to realize the importance of meeting consumer demand for options and providing transparency in the marketplace. U.S. Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass., introduced the Electricity Consumers’ Right to Know Act, also known as E-Know, which will establish federal policy allowing every energy consumer in the U.S. to have access to his or her energy consumption and related costs in real time (or near real time).

On the state level, an increasing number of regulations exist guiding infrastructure development by establishing energy consumption standards, as well as standards for utilizing higher percentages of renewable energy. For example, according to The Pew Center on Global Climate Change, 37 states now have standards requiring electric utilities to generate a certain amount of electricity from renewable or alternative energy sources.

 

Driver No. 3: INVESTORS

 

Investors have followed the government’s lead and provided funds for new technology development. According to Ernst and Young, venture capital investment in clean tech is recovering faster than any other sector, with $733 million in deals closed in the first quarter of this year; the majority of those deals occurred in the energy efficiency segment. This community is engaged in clean tech because it sees emerging technologies that are finally capable of solving urgent energy problems. Investors understand the long-term implications
of rising energy costs and see support in the marketplace from
consumers who are more attuned to the climate change issue. As the regulatory environment becomes more conducive to innovation in the energy sector, progress will occur at a faster pace.

 

Driver No. 4: TECHNOLOGY

 

From a technology standpoint, the energy industry today is reliable but not smart because the ability to optimize supply and demand on a large scale does not yet exist. As industry leaders work toward a nationwide rollout, the focus of the smart grid is on operational efficiency (i.e. peak load efficiency), regulatory compliance and improving customer service. But the emerging technologies developed by existing and young start-up companies will enable the smart grid by giving everyday devices a higher level of intelligence and the ability to communicate to a network. In the near future, with interoperability and the adoptions of standards for the smart grid system, the technology being developed today will deliver market-based pricing, renewables integration and expansion of home-area networks to include everyday appliances and electric vehicles.

Soon, consumers will be able to negotiate in real time how much energy they need and where it comes from. For example, someone may be charging his or her electric vehicle at night, at the time winds tend to be stronger. Linking the two allows customers to take advantage of that renewable energy source. Customers will not only be informed enough to make that choice but will be able to link consumption choices with their own habits and values.

Technology alone will not make this happen. For smart grid deployment to accelerate, all four key drivers must work together. The National Action Plan for Energy Efficiency states that 50 percent of the growth between now and 2025 can be met through using energy smarter. The nation’s agenda to establish higher efficiency levels is driving stricter regulations for utilities, which in turn recognize that consumer education is imperative to meeting new standards.

The key to consumer education, and ultimately the driving force for changing consumption habits, is access to information. As more utilities turn to new technology to provide this information to their customers, investors see the opportunity that emerging clean tech companies have to shape the energy industry’s future. It is this convergence of drivers that will move the industry forward toward a common goal.

Adrian Tuck is CEO of Tendril.

 


 

 

Cash is King–But Does it Motivate Energy Conservation?

 

By Carl Gustin, GroundedPower

With smart grid deployments on the rise, there has been a lot of talk around the best way to engage consumers in the energy-saving process and how to motivate participation. When considering what motivates consumers to conserve energy, economists typically focused on price signals as the primary motivator. But not all consumers respond to the same motivations. The economists might be wrong–price might not have as much impact on energy savings as other factors that affect consumer behavior.

This is not to suggest that providing information to consumers about energy prices and energy consumption is not helpful, only that by itself such information may not be enough to produce the deep, sustainable savings many utilities will need to meet regulatory and legislative mandates.

For many consumers, other household expenses, including those related to communications and entertainment, overshadow the price of electricity.

Information, especially in real time, is important, and valuable social marketing tools can help tailor information based on demographic and other segmentations.

However, the challenge is to actively engage consumers in the energy savings process, in effect making them partners and building relationships around common efficiency goals.

Part of the challenge is to achieve a level of engagement in efficiency that is productive and easy enough to become a habit.

Results of a pilot project on Cape Cod, Mass., provide some insights on how to achieve that outcome. It suggests that other factors, such as environmental concerns, competition, community well-being and rewards, may be just as powerful motivators for many people as price signals. It also suggests that achieving significant savings can be a natural extension of the daily lives of many consumers.

The pilot, sponsored by the Cape Light Compact, a municipal aggregator that runs energy efficiency programs and buys electricity for consumers in 21 Cape Cod and Martha’s Vineyard communities, produced significant energy savings without the benefit of time-differentiated price signals. Pilot participants on average reduced energy use nearly 10 percent per month by setting goals, building their own energy savings plans, getting regular feedback and receiving points for participating and reaching their goals.

Surprisingly, none of the traditional tools such as in-home displays, plug level monitors or load control devices were part of the pilot–the results are based entirely on user behavior.

According to the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, behavior change is a largely untapped resource and not enough is being done to leverage it. ACEEE suggests in various reports that the energy-savings potential from behavior changes alone could approach 25 percent.

The Cape Light Compact pilot was designed and implemented in 2009 to evaluate potential energy savings from in-home energy monitoring systems, gain insight to behavioral aspects of energy use, and inform future residential smart grid projects. Pilot participants use a Web-based Interactive Customer Engagement System (iCES), which includes a wireless in-home monitor developed by GroundedPower Inc. of Newton Lower Falls, Mass. With an online dashboard, participants received real-time feedback on their energy consumption and their savings in kilowatt-hours, dollars and emissions, and were able to create easy-to-use opportunities to learn about and sign up for energy-saving activities. Participants were also part of a community network and could view electricity usage of other similar households in the pilot and communicate with other pilot members through a Web-based social networking system.

One of the keys to the iCES system is its ability to allow individual consumers to tap into their own motivations and design energy savings programs based on individual needs.

According to Briana Kane, residential program coordinator for Cape Light Compact, “The results from the pilot are extremely encouraging; it proves that customers who have the tools to monitor their real-time energy use on a daily basis learn to change their behavior and effectively reduce their electricity consumption.”

According to the independent evaluation by PA Consulting Group, pilot participants saved an average of 9.3 percent compared with control groups. Just as important, 90 percent of participants expressed satisfaction and would continue using the system after the pilot.

PA Consulting Group found that sharing information through the social network was an important component of the pilot. It also found that the majority of participants valued the information and were willing to pay a monthly fee to use the system. The system appears to have other advantages. For example, it is likely that engaged customers will be more accepting of time-based rates, more willing to participate in load control programs, more likely to purchase energy-efficient appliances and in general have a more favorable view of their utility. If that is the case, then interactive customer engagement and relationship tools should, and will, become an integral part of every smart meter deployment, providing energy savings to customers and communities, while allowing utilities to better serve their customers.

 

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