Utilities Give Tech Advice at Grid-Interop

By Kathleen Davis, Senior Editor

The importance of cybersecurity, the desire for plug-and-play technology and understanding how utilities must change with the smart grid future are just three of the lessons from the final utility implementation roundtable at Grid-Interop in Phoenix, Ariz., on December 8, 2011.

The first issue discussed at the roundtable involved the missing link of interoperability and smart grid. What’s still blank that needs to be filled?

Philip Slack, senior group manager of enterprise architecture with Florida Power & Light (FPL) chose simplicity as the first item missing from interoperability, followed by understanding how to transfer technology into business relevance and vendor education.

“While it’s good that utilities and associations are pushing standards, in the end, that’s not the bottom line,” Slack said. “We don’t buy standards. We buy products.”

Matt Gillmore, Consumers Energy’s director of enterprise architecture, said detailed simulation testing is missing from the current equation.

Percy Haralson, Southern California Edison’s (SCE’s) manager of field technologies in engineering advancement, expressed concerns about a common security suite, noting that there isn’t “a common security thread” from distribution automation to substation automation and into home area networks and advanced metering infrastructure.

“We don’t quite have that yet,” Haralson said.

Gary Stuebing, Duke Energy’s strategic planning manager, said cybersecurity is the industry missing link.

“We’re fighting this escalating war with cybersecurity. It will be interesting to see what comes along,” he said.

Moving from missing items to how to sell the value of interoperability, Slack said that the industry is “maybe one or two years away from products with rubber that hits the road,” revealing that the value of interoperability will be proven in the near future.

Duke never had the issue of selling value to begin with, Stuebing said.

“We’ve never had the problem (of selling the value). We started with the value proposition of smart grid as interoperability, and management ran with it,” he said.

Haralson said better business and consumer experiences are ways to prove interoperability’s value.

“We’re starting to roll out our first deployment of HAN (home area network) product, and issues can create a bad user experience and a bad experience for the utility and the utility call center,” he said. “So, interoperability can help with call experiences and customer relationships.”

Gillmore gave an analogy from a vendor point of view to prove the value of interoperability: Why would vendors want to build a different product for every utility? From a business standpoint, why wouldn’t they want to capture the business value of interoperability?

“Scale is a huge driver,” he said. “I can’t imagine us having to build a product for Tendril and then a different one for Honeywell. And on and on.”

Moving from interoperability value to an applications discussion, Slack said that every utility, including his own, is in the midst of a “big data challenge.”

“It’s a new world for a company such as us,” he said.

It’s no longer about truck rolls and outage management with smart grid, which Slack called that the low-hanging fruit. Now it’s about business change, a new model and improving customer reliability, he said.

Slack also mentioned cybersecurity and testing in the applications discussion. On cybersecurity, Slack pushed caution over a rush to application. He described testing as a “game changer,” adding that utilities would love plug-and-play technology applications; Slack believes testing is the answer to that.

Stuebing said that all utilities, including his own are “heads-down into implementation” at this point, making applications options a today issue. Duke is focused on back-office application and doing something with all the information they’re starting to get back.

“Now we’re trying to understand exactly what we are getting [data-wise],” he said.

Gillmore added the need for a common information profile in the applications process, calling it “a very big deal to us.” Gillmore said that while utilities like his own think they are building compliant interfaces, they “really don’t know.”

Haralson wants to focus on IEC 61850 with applications and “pushing it out into the distribution world.” While made for transmission, Haralson said that scalability and ease of maintenance make 61850 valueable on the distribution side as well.

Amazon to Sell GE EV Car Charger

Amazon.com will sell GE Energy’s WattStation wall-mount electric vehicle (EV) charger directly to U.S. consumers through the online retailer’s popular website. EV drivers can purchase the charging station online by simply clicking and buying it on Amazon.com, just like any other product. Available for use in the U.S. and Canada, the WattStation is part of GE’s ecomagination portfolio of products and services.

“We’re excited to give our customers an easy way to purchase the charger,” said Sergio Corbo, chief marketing officer for GE Energy’s Industrial Solutions business. “We believe the product is well-suited to an online purchasing experience.”

A Fortune 500 company headquartered in Seattle, Amazon.com began in 1995 as an online bookstore and has grown into the world’s largest online retailer, offering a vast array of consumer products.

MORE INSIGHT AT http://power-grid.com

Find more information about electric vehicles online by going to the website and typing “electric vehicles” into the search engine. You’ll find:

  • Analysis of an MIT report that says the grid can handle changes, including EVs;
  • “Smart Metering and Small Utilities” by Bob Heile, which discusses incorporating EV planning;
  • Details on ABB’s plan to install multiple fast-charging systems for electric vehicles at some BP service stations in the Netherlands as part of a nationwide trial,
  • And more.

Visit us online at http://power-grid.com” target=”_new”>http://power-grid.com for all the details.

Maintaining an Optimistic View in a Difficult Business Environment

By Farah Saeed, Frost & Sullivan

In lieu of recent developments–uncertain economic forecasts, the end of the clean energy grant program, the Solyndra scandal–it can be difficult to maintain a positive attitude about the energy sector without sounding too naïve. Some might even argue that there are definite signs of economic slowdown, particularly since the 2012 U.S. gross domestic product has been set at less than 2 percent. Despite these facts, developments in the smart grid market have not come to a halt.

The smart grid market is clearly past the stages of early commercialization. Instead, the market is witnessing signs of a steadily growing market. While debates still exist around regulatory issues and interoperability standards, many of the technologies considered for implementing a smart grid strategy are readily and commercially available and some have even been successfully implemented.

For instance, the Institute for Electric Efficiency (IEE) states that there is approximately a 23 percent market penetration rate of meters in the U.S. with prominent utilities such as Alliant Energy, Austin Energy, San Diego Gas & Electric, Oncor and CenterPoint close to completing or having completed smart meter deployment.

Strategies now center on how to leverage existing smart meter systems to roll out customer centric services, power curtailment programs, pre-payment options, along with conserving voltage regulation. An upcoming study on the North American advanced meter infrastructure (AMI) market shows revenue growth at approximately 8.6 percent during 2011, translating to a $2.54 billion market (based on revenue performance of AMI providers). Furthermore, the market is projected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 10.7 percent, indicating a robust market for AMI systems. Other market projections suggest that the market will witness a 54 percent market penetration rate for smart meters by 2015 (based on current deployments).

Smart meters account for the bulk of revenues. The fast adoption rate of smart meters, however, is going to lead to strong investments in support technologies such as meter data management systems (MDM) and customer and program data management programs (CPDM). By the end of 2016, MDM and CPDM combined are going to account for 32.6 percent.

As for other technologies considered for implementing smart grid strategy, Frost & Sullivan research shows that the global smart grid market actually grew 59.7 percent during 2010 and is set to stabilize at a CAGR of 26.6 percent between 2010 and 2016.

While budgetary issues still hold precedent over decisions, the market can no longer pretend that it is business as usual. Upgrades are needed to better support, accommodate and manage renewable power. Furthermore, as more electric vehicles come on board, utilities need to plan for charging infrastructure and related customer service.

More importantly, utilities need to prepare for the future, especially the expectations of the next generation of savvy customers. Customers are interested in technologies that promote energy efficiency and reduce energy consumption. The biggest driver for these existing homeowners is the opportunity to reduce their bill. For next-generation consumers, however, motives will be driven by sheer common sense. (See figure.)

Farah Saeed is principal consultant with Frost & Sullivan.

GlobalData Forecasts Switchgear Market Increase

The global switchgear market for the utility sector is primarily driven by the medium and high voltage switchgear segments, according to recent information released by business intelligence provider GlobalData.

Emerging economies such as China, India, Latin America and Eastern Europe are expected to drive the market until 2020. The revenues of the global switchgear market stood at $26,685.6m in 2010. The market grew at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 8.6 percent from 2000 to 2010 due to those emerging economies.

The market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 12.7 percent during the forecast period. Growth is expected to be higher in Asia-Pacific, Latin America and other global regions than in developed regions such as North America and Europe.

The switchgear market in the Asia-Pacific region is expected to grow at a CAGR of 15 percent, especially in China, India, Indonesia, South Korea, Thailand and the Philippines. The switchgear markets in China and India grew at a rate of 14-15 percent annually until the economic slowdown in 2008.

The economic slowdown had a negative impact on the growth of the global switchgear market. Lack of credit availability has resulted in many utility and energy infrastructure projects being postponed or canceled, which has resulted in low growth rates. The contribution from the Asia-Pacific region to the total market is expected to increase from 64.6 percent in 2010 to 80.2 percent in 2020.

For further details, visit: http://labhomes.pnnl.gov.

Siemens Buys eMeter

Siemens has signed an agreement to acquire all of the stock of eMeter Corp., headquartered in San Mateo, Calif. Terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

eMeter will be part of the smart grid division of the Siemens Infrastructure & Cities Sector, which is housed within Siemens Industry Inc. in the U.S. eMeter will continue to operate from its San Mateo headquarters as part of the division.

With the completion of this purchase, Siemens is making a strong commitment to strengthening its position in the smart grid market, according to the company.

“The acquisition of eMeter will allow Siemens to expand its reach globally in the energy information and meter data management space,” said Jan Mrosik, CEO of the smart grid division of the Siemens Infrastructure & Cities Sector. “Ever-increasing demand for solutions to improve the effectiveness of the smart grid for cities and utilities makes this acquisition even more important.”

Home Sweet (Energy Efficient) Home

Two new research facilities at the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) will serve as a test bed for studying energy efficient and smart homes. PNNL and its project partners marked the start of the research effort with a ribbon cutting at the new facilities in November 2011.

“The PNNL Lab Homes project is the first of its kind in the Pacific Northwest region,” said Steve Shankle, director of PNNL’s electricity infrastructure and buildings division. “The facilities will be an excellent resource for PNNL and its regional and national partners to test a variety of smart and energy efficient technologies that ultimately may be used in homes in the Northwest and throughout the U.S.”

Shankle noted that residential buildings currently account for about 22 percent of the nation’s annual energy use, so widespread adoption of energy-saving technologies could significantly reduce the nation’s energy needs as well as lessen environmental effects from energy use and result in smaller energy bills for residents.

PNNL and its partners will use the identical, 1,500 square-foot Marlette manufactured homes for experiments focused on reducing energy use and peak demand on the electric grid. Research and demonstration primarily will focus on technologies that can be added to a home after construction, and the homes will offer a side-by-side ability to test and compare new ideas and approaches that are applicable to site-built as well as manufactured homes in the region.

Organizations funding work in the PNNL Lab Homes project include the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, the Bonneville Power Administration, DOE’s Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability and the City of Richland, Wash. The site for the home was donated by Battelle and is included in the footprint of the Tri-Cities Research District in north Richland.

For more information on current and future research projects, visit:


Multiple Hacks, DHS Warning on Critical Infrastructure Protection an industry Wake-Up Call

By Chris Petersen, LogRhythm

The heat is on when it comes to protecting critical infrastructure in the United States. Unless the industry takes major steps to bolster its overall cybersecurity, 2012 could be the year hackers cause major disruptions that impact thousands of people.

In November 2011, the deputy assistant director of the FBI’s Cyber Division, Michael Welch, told a London cyber security conference that hackers had recently accessed the critical infrastructure in three U.S. cities by compromising the Internet-based control systems.

And then in December 2011, the Industrial Control Systems Cyber Emergency Response Team (ICS-CERT) at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) reissued a warning to control system owners and operators of their potential vulnerability to cyber intrusion and attack mainly through their remote access and monitoring systems, which often have no firewall protection and weak authentication systems.

Whether it is defending against cyberterrorism, cyberwarfare, hacktivists, or just your run-of-the-mill hacker, it seems clear that securing our country’s critical infrastructure must be a nationwide priority. Two recent publically revealed “hacks,” a water utility in Illinois and another in Texas, are good examples of what is wrong with the current system and raise serious questions on our state of readiness when it comes to defending against these threats.

For the Illinois water utility hack, a contractor accessed the supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) system from Russia. Why was remote access from Russia allowed at all? If access from remote countries was required and allowed per policy, why was it mistaken for a breach? If policy disallowed, why weren’t appropriate access controls in place? Was any real-time monitoring being performed?

While some of the questions are unique to this specific incident, they highlight concerns shared by many when it comes to cyber security practices and standards employed in the defense of critical infrastructure. Since American Presidential Directive PDD-63 concerning CIP was enacted in May 1998, progress has been made. One has to question, however, whether we’ve caught up or fallen further behind.

The increasingly connecteded infrastructure makes us not only more vulnerable to cyber security attacks but increases the cascading effect an attack can have on other infrastructure sectors and capabilities. When PDD-63 was enacted, it’s likely those same Illinois water utilities weren’t even accessible via the Internet. Today, much, if not most of our critical infrastructure is directly or indirectly connected via corporate networks.

A fundamental challenge utilities face is that SCADA was not designed to be secure. Much of the existing infrastructure was developed and implemented prior to the rise of the Internet. Security was most often thought of in the physical sense. Nobody imaged SCADA devices and their associated serial protocols would later be converted to IP and made accessible to untrusted networks. Many SCADA devices employ very basic, easily defeated authentication methods. They transmit data in clear text and have limited or non-existent logging capabilities. Furthering the challenge, SCADA devices employ proprietary operating systems and legacy CPUs where integrated security capabilities are hard if not impossible to introduce.

Fortunately, some in the industry have risen to the challenge and found innovative ways to secure these systems. A great example is Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories (SEL). SEL has introduced an Ethernet security gateway device that sits in front of unsecured SCADA devices and provides a single point of secure access. As another example, Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) solutions like the one provided by LogRhythm can be used to monitor activity across the SCADA infrastructure, detecting and helping mitigate threats in real-time.

Engineering and high-tech companies can help bring security to SCADA infrastructure but the utility sector must be willing to invest. This is where the rubber meets the road. Without cause to invest in security, some will choose not to. Dollars and time will instead flow to other objectives more aligned with core business needs.

Compliance standards for some industries exist and require a minimum level of investment – NERC CIP being a great example. For many critical infrastructure sectors, however, definitive and enforceable standards are absent. This leaves many private industries taking a wait and see approach. Why invest time and resources in cyber security when a future defined standard could nullify the investments made? In an ideal world, private industry would just “do the right thing.” However, implementing a comprehensive cyber security plan is complex and costly. Combine that with a constrained economy and one can understand why many are sitting on the sideline or taking a conservative approach.

One can only hope that recent events will serve as a wakeup call and have a big impact on policy makers across the private and public sector. The infrastructure we rely on that enables our country to operate and to defend itself is vulnerable. The time to act is now.

Chris Petersen is chief technology officer and co-founder of LogRhythm, a leading log management and SIEM 2.0 IT security company based in Boulder, Colo.

PG&E to Customers: You Can Keep Your Old Meter

To provide customers who have concerns about wireless smart meter technology with alternative options for recording their energy use, Pacific Gas and Electric Co. (PG&E) in late December asked the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to give customers a choice to use traditional analog, mechanical meters. This request offers another customer option in addition to the utility’s proposal last March to turn off the radios in its opt-out customers’ smart meters.

“Some customers remain concerned about SmartMeterâ„- technology and want alternatives,” said Helen Burt, PG&E’s senior vice president and chief customer officer. “Through comments to us and the CPUC, they are clear that an analog meter is the option they prefer to address their unease with wireless technology.”

PG&E is installing digital, wireless smart meters throughout its service area in Northern and Central California as part of a statewide program to enhance the safety, reliability and affordability of its gas and electric services. To date, PG&E has installed nearly 9 million gas and electric smart meters.

Independent studies repeatedly have affirmed the safety and accuracy of smart meters. In response to comments from some customers, however, PG&E last March proposed offering them a choice to turn off the radios in their smart meters. The utility also provided customers with the option to delay the installation of new smart meters until the CPUC approves a way to opt-out of the program. Now, in response to further customer feedback, PG&E asked the CPUC to approve analog meters as an additional alternative to receiving a smart meter.

“Personal choice is important to our customers. In response to their requests, we are asking the Commission to approve an option for customers to receive analog meters,” Burt said.

The CPUC is expected to issue its smart meter opt-out decision in January. That decision will likely ask customers who opt-out of the program to pay an initial fee and a monthly charge to cover the costs of manual meter reading and other associated operational and billing issues.

Pacific Gas and Electric Co., a subsidiary of PG&E Corp., is one of the largest combined natural gas and electric utilities in the U.S. Based in San Francisco, with 20,000 employees, the company delivers energy to 15 million people in Northern and Central California.

For more information, visit: http://pge.com/about/newsroom/

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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 Jennifer.Runyon@ClarionEvents.com.

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