While preparing for a presentation I recently delivered, I uncovered some interesting information about future reliability and power quality requirements. I’m sure you’re aware that the North American electric transmission system is extremely robust. It enjoys an average availability of better than 99.9 percent. Impressed? I was, until I did a little more research. It seems that the North American market for kilowatt-hours with reliability of more than 99.9 percent has already reached 20 percent per year. This is according to Peter Huber, co-editor of the Digital Power Report and a noted expert on the Digital Age. Huber went on to predict that the growth rate for this same segment of reliability-above 99.9 percent-is roughly 10 percent to 15 percent per year.
The good news and the bad news is: The Internet, which is at the core of the Digital Age, runs entirely on electricity. Of course this is good news to most power producers and energy service providers because it means they will be able to sell more of their commodity. However, it is not such good news for the segment of our industry that must deliver electricity-the wires companies.
According to a recent study released by Banc of America Securities, Internet-related power demand represented 8 percent to 13 percent of electricity consumption in 1999. This translates to approximately 385 billion kilowatt-hours, an increase of 670 percent since 1993. The study also predicts that, Internet Power, which is a term used in the study to mean Internet-related electricity consumption, will account for 40 percent of total electric load growth over the next 10 years. According to the study, by 2010, one-half of U.S. electricity consumption will be related to the Internet in some way.
Banc of America Securities defines Internet Power as an electron stream that is available 99.9999 percent of the time. To achieve this high rate of reliability, electric service cannot be interrupted for more than 30 seconds in an entire year. This is a pretty tall order for most utilities!
It is also important to keep in mind that in addition to these reliability requirements, there will also be significant demands regarding power quality issues. Utilities have their work cut out for them if these predictions hold true.
I probably don’t have to tell you that much of the nation’s power delivery system is not in the best of shape. The outages that have occurred during the past two summers have been a strong reminder that some of North America’s transmission and distribution systems are badly in need of maintenance and repair work.
However, the outlook is not hopeless. The tools needed to meet future reliability and power quality requirements are available, and in many cases they are already in place. Energy management systems, outage management systems and geographic information systems along with many other information technology systems are providing information that can be used to more efficiently and effectively operate the existing infrastructure. Technology, when properly applied, will allow wires companies to meet the extraordinary demands of the future.
We at Utility Automation magazine are working to bring you the latest technology news and information to help you meet these enormous future requirements. As we begin a new year, I encourage you to let me know what we can do to improve our publication and provide you with the information you need to succeed.
I welcome your letters via snail mail or e-mail.