San Antonio Logs DTECH Success

More than 8,500 people attended DistribuTECH Conference & Exhibition 2012 on Jan. 24-26 at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center in San Antonio. The breakdown included more than 400 speakers in 78 conference sessions and 431 companies on the exhibit floor.

From Staff Reports

The show opened with a Tuesday keynote that featured Reliant’s Bill Harmon, CPS Energy President and CEO Doyle N. Beneby and actor and economist Ben Stein.

Doyle N. Beneby, CPS Energy
Bill Harmon, Reliant
Ben Stein

Harmon, Reliant’s vice president of residential marketing and product development, shared how utilities can win customers over on smart energy technologies. He compared the task utilities have of attracting people to new and sometimes misunderstood technologies to the rollout of another world-changing advancement from the past decade.

“Imagine if Apple pitched the iPhone as a polycarbonate-screened, oleophobic, gesture-based interface instead of just showing us that this was the coolest thing around,” Harmon said.

If utilities and energy companies insist on reciting a list of technical specifications and engineering jargon to customers, then the public will struggle to understand what a smarter grid and smart devices can do for them, he said.

“We need to share the value propositions of these technologies by showing customers what they can do with them in a way that they can understand,” he said.

An in-home energy display, for example, should show the user how many pennies and dollars he or she is saving or spending on electricity instead of requiring the user to know what a kilowatt is.

Smart meters might be one of the most powerful drivers for changing the way energy is distributed and consumed, he said, but it can be difficult to sell a customer on a change that they never thought they needed and did not ask for.

“Remember New Coke? Or the changes Facebook is always making for a more recent example?” he said. “Customers don’t understand smart grid yet. All they can see is a change they didn’t ask for that delivers benefits they didn’t know they needed, available for a surcharge that they’ll be paying for the next 10 years.”

Alexander Graham Bell, Harmon said, would not recognize the modern telecommunications industry at all. Thomas Edison, who invented the technologies behind the power grid, could still pretty easily recognize the power grid we have today, he said.

“Power is still produced centrally and consumed far away. Power still generally travels along overhead wire owned by a regulated public utility. Most of our meters are mechanical and not smart or automated,” he said.

If utility customers are going to be brought to the changes that the industry has in store for them, the industry must explain their intentions first, he said.

“People aren’t going to choose a time-of-use plan because you tell them it’ll reduce the demand for peaking power. They’ll change because the plan fits their lifestyle,” he said.

CPS Energy’s Beneby took the stage to thank the crowd for coming to San Antonio, the city his utility serves.

Beneby said local lawmakers and his utility have worked well together over the years and spelled out a few of CPS Energy’s goals, which include more use of clean and renewable energy, energy-efficient city infrastructure, and a smarter grid that uses advanced meters.

“In this new energy economy, economic development and R&D can work together to boost clean and renewable technology,” Beneby said.

The city utility recently signed a 30-MW power purchase agreement to buy solar energy from Sun Edison and is involved in an integrated gasification combined-cycle (IGCC) generation project that can capture up to 90 percent of carbon dioxide produced and use it for advanced oilfield extraction.

“These projects help reduce our carbon footprint but also provide a hedge against the regulatory uncertainty we’ve been seeing lately,” he said.

Stein offered his trademark dry humor and teased that he had some jokes about sex. He offered some encouragement to the delegates. Without electricity, Stein said, the world we know and love today would be an impossibility.

“I am here to thank you because without electricity, we’d all be miserable,” Stein said. “With electricity, we are supermen and superwomen. Electricity makes us into gods, and the grid is the god machine.

There are rules of physics at play in the electricity industry, and Stein said he is thankful that there are people hard at work who understand how those laws work.

“Electricity must be consumed as fast as it’s produced; it can’t be interrupted. If reliability slips, there will be blood in the streets—so your work is not only essential, it’s also cool,” he said.

Projects of the Year Awards

Also announced during the keynote session were the winners of POWERGRID International magazine’s Project of the Year Awards.

This year, Duke Energy was presented with the Energy Efficiency/Demand Response Project of the Year Award. California ISO took the Renewables Project of the Year Award. AEP Ohio won the Smart Grid Project of the Year Award. Going home with the Best Smart Metering Project Award was Toronto Hydro. The winning projects will featured in POWERGRID International’s April issue.

Educational Sessions

Throughout the week, DistribuTECH 2012 offered a record number of sessions at 78.

One of the sessions featured panelists from hard-hit regions that recounted how they’re rebuilding after recent acts of God.

Hiroshi Asano, director of Japan’s Central Research Institute of Electric Power Industry, described how the March 11, 2011, earthquake and tsunami damaged the region’s substation distribution, a thermal power plant and a transmission tower. He said it takes a long time to indentify the damage at the distribution system level. Much of the damage was estimated, he said, using risk-assessment management. After March 11, photovoltaics became more popular in Japan, Asano said. The lessons learned in Japan include 1) how to keep operation of the restoration system with no bulk power supply and no communication, and 2) how to estimate damage with no information, he said.

Alabama Power Distribution Management Systems Manager Bill Mintz joined Asano on the panel. Mintz called the storm waves that swept across Alabama on April 27, 2011, the “most catastrophic events that ever occurred” in the territory. The first wave began at 5 a.m. and included straight line winds and small tornadoes. At 10 a.m. the National Weather Service warned of a second wave of storms.

“They said it could be an Armageddon event,” Mintz said. “It really got our attention.”

Crews working from 5 a.m. to 4 p.m. restored service to some 100,000 customers, he said. The second storm wave occurred from 3 to 9 p.m. Thirty tornadoes—13 of which were EF3, EF4 or EF5—moved across the north central part of the state. Some 412,000 customers lost power, and 240 people died in Alabama alone. The damage included: 400 transmissions, six substations, 8,000 broken distribution poles, 1,849 distribution transformers and more than 4 million feet of wire, Mintz said.

Alabama Power secured 55 external utilities for mutual assistance. They achieved restoration in seven days, Mintz said. Big factors in the short restoration time were satellite trailers and staging areas with decentralized operations that ran the show, he said. Also key to the restoration were sleeper trailers and 2,874 beds and cots in a mall, the University of Alabama’s Bryant-Denny Stadium, an armory and an airport. The best defense is a plan that’s ready to deploy, he said.

“Mother Nature’s going to attack again, and we know that,” Mintz said.

On the same panel, Robert “Bob” Uluski, technical executive at the Electric Power Research Institute, said that a self-healing network works well for single-circuit outages. A smart grid, he said, can help with: fault detection and location; damage assessment; geographic visualization of outages; developing prioritized restoration strategies; and service restoration and verification.

DOE Mega Session

Some 300 people attended a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)-hosted mega session on Wednesday afternoon in the Lila Cockrell Theatre. The session, Validating the Benefits of Smart Grid Investments—Sustaining the Pace of Modernization, provided a forum in which utility executives representing American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) recipients talked about their utilities’ smart grid project progress. Jim Parks of Sacramento Public Utility District (SMUD) said SMUD is finishing up installation of 600,000 new smart meters, as well as volt/VAR, distribution automation and electric vehicle integration work. He said all work on SMUD’s smart grid project must be completed by April 2013. The ARRA money has helped fund a big part of the project, Parks said.

Aseem Kaper of Consolidated Edison (ConEd) said his company used much of the ARRA money to fund new smart grid communication infrastructure and cybersecurity programs.

Jeff Myerson of CenterPoint Energy said CenterPoint began its advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) project in 2009 before it received the ARRA grant. CenterPoint has deployed 2 million of the 2.2 million smart meters that will complete its AMI project.

John Hewa, a vice president with the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) discussed a few projects that some rural cooperatives are funding with ARRA money. He said that although the nation’s 900 rural electric cooperatives provide only 10 percent of its electricity, cooperatives cover 90 percent of the country’s land mass, making them key to smart grid advancement.

Christopher Irwin of the DOE’s Smart Grid Standards & Interoperability office moderated the session and led the discussion. He said the ARRA funds awarded by the DOE laid the groundwork for what will come next. He asked each panelist to discuss his utility’s next steps. Parks said integration is the next big step for SMUD’s smart grid development program. ConEd’s Kaper said integration, distribution system cybersecurity, developing the work force for future deployment and interoperability will be next for ConEd. Myerson said CenterPoint is transforming the way it delivers electricity so process and business changes will be its next big steps. Hewa said NRECA and cooperatives have a lot of work in front of them. They will work on developing cybersecurity technologies, as well as interoperability technologies, including NRECA’s Multispeak platform, which he said needs to grow dramatically.

Highlights and Announcements from the Exhibit Floor

DistribuTECH Conference & Exhibition is host to receptions, conference sessions, live demonstrations of smart grid technology and some of the utility industry’s sharpest minds. The conference is also where leading companies make announcements that change the industry.

A few of the top news items the utility industry first learned about at DistribuTECH include:

C3, SAIC expand alliance to deliver integrated energy solutions. SAIC Energy, Environment & Infrastructure LLC, a unit of Science Applications International Corp. (SAIC), and C3, an energy and emissions management software provider, announced a comprehensive strategic alliance to deliver fully integrated energy solutions to commercial, industrial andgovernment customers in North America. Building on an alliance initially formed in 2011, the extended relationship between SAIC and C3 includes joint product development, sales, marketing and support. Under the agreement, SAIC will sell, install and support C3 software as an integrated component of its energy services offerings.

Vermont energy grid to get IBM network upgrade. IBM and the Vermont Electric Power Co. announced an agreement to build an intelligent fiber-optic and Carrier Ethernet communications and control network across Vermont.

Spanning more than 1,000 miles, this advanced fiber communications network will connect transmission substations to Vermont’s distribution utilities, delivering reliable electric service and the capabilities required for the state’s future smart grid.

S&C, Alstom Grid introduce integrated smart grid solution. Global smart grid firms S&C Electric Co. and Alstom Grid announced an integrated solution combining S&C’s IntelliTeam SG Automatic Restoration System and Alstom Grid’s e-terradistribution Integrated Distribution Management System. This new solution is the outcome of joint research and development to support smart distribution through layered intelligence. The integrated solution combines rapid, real-time response to system conditions using S&C’s distributed intelligence technology with regional area control from Alstom’s enterprise-level applications. It enables control room operators to access complete field data from S&C’s IntelliTeam SG through Alstom’s IDMS. The integrated approach also offers a single user interface for enhanced situational awareness to support the growing influx of data as smart grid deployments continue to expand.

Petra Solar demonstrates GridWave technology. New Jersey-based Petra Solar, which provides smart energy solutions to the electric supply industry, demonstrated its GridWave technology during the conference. Attendees learned about and viewed demonstrations of the GridWave solutions that were developed by Petra Solar under the DOE’s Solar Energy Grid Integration Systems program. The SEGIS initiative was established to foster advancements that maintain or improve power quality and reliability while increasing photovoltaic solar technology’s contributions and economic value to the electrical grid.

Texas Instruments unveils Zigbee Smart Energy system. Texas Instruments Inc. (TI) announced a demonstration of a radio frequency system-on-chip that integrates an IEEE 802.15.4 (2.4 GHz) radio, an ARM Cortex-m3 processor, dedicated Smart Energy 2.0 hardware security acceleration, and enough flash and RAM to run the ZigBee IP stack and SE2.0 profile. A single-chip solution, the CC2538 ZigBee SE2.0 SoC removes the need for an additional microprocessor and will enable simplified, cost-effective development of SE2.0-compliant smart grid and remote sensor connectivity applications such as electricity, gas or water smart meters and in-home displays. Also demonstrated at DistribuTECH was TI’s high-performance CC1200 RF transceiver. The CC1200, an evolution of the CC1120 sub-1 GHz RF performance line, supports the full bandwidth of the 802.15.4g standard for wireless smart utility networks in the sub-1 GHz bands.

Metadigm announces accurate meter-reading technology. Metadigm Services, a utility services company specializing in AMI services to utilities, announced MetaRead, a new software application that transforms traditional meter reading and guarantees 100 percent accurate billing and meter data. Capturing meter reads with digital photos adds an additional level of data verification and accountability and security that will help detect and prevent power fraud, Metadigm officials said during a DistribuTECH press conference.

Dominion, Lockheed Martin release energy efficiency solution. Dominion and Lockheed Martin demonstrated their EDGE Grid Side Efficiency solution for utilities. EDGE is the first of several smart grid applications to be delivered through a joint marketing and development alliance between the two companies. EDGE is a modular and adaptive conservation voltage management solution enabling utilities to deploy incremental grid-side energy management that requires no behavioral changes or purchases by end customers. The EDGE product suite provides sustainable energy savings through integrated planning, execution and validation of grid-side energy efficiency management.

G&W Electric, Survalent Technology show off new automation solution. Delegates visited G&W Electric booth to see a new automation solution from G&W Electric and Survalent Technology in action. The new solution uses software that has been field proven for SCADA management, FDIR, smart grid and load-flow management paired with industry-hardened devices. This new addition to the Lazer line of automation solutions can be customized to meet the most complex system requirements.

DistribuTECH 2012 ended Thursday afternoon just after Venkatesh Donthy of OnStar won a new Chevy Volt, Chevrolet’s electric vehicle. Donthy was one of three delegates whose names were drawn from the entry cards collected at PennWell’s DistribuTECH Booth. PennWell Power Delivery Group Publisher Michael Grossman handed all three delegates a remote, but only one remote started the car.

DistribuTECH 2013 is already in the works. Mark your calendars for Jan. 29-31 in San Diego. Check for details. DistribuTECH will be back in San Antonio in 2014.

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The Clarion Energy Content Team is made up of editors from various publications, including POWERGRID International, Power Engineering, Renewable Energy World, Hydro Review, Smart Energy International, and Power Engineering International. Contact the content lead for this publication at

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