The Importance of Partnerships to Smart Grid Success


Modernization of the electrical grid is a crucial undertaking toward the common goals of energy independence, reduced greenhouse gas emissions and economic growth. The solution will require many system components that no single company can provide. A successful collaboration of the world’s most innovative, intelligent and successful players in the energy, communications and information technology sectors is required to achieve this vision.

Global solution integration, management consulting, telecommunications, software and hardware technology firms have a long, successful history working in the energy sector. Through their successes in this industry, they have become innovators, thought leaders and trusted advisors for many executives within global energy-producing and consuming companies. Together these companies must work to modernize and automate our power grid, which stretches across state and national borders.

Working with various companies helps leverage industry leaders’ expertise and provide a more robust solutions offering. These are natural synergies. Developing relationships and alliances with select and complementary firms will increase the awareness, knowledge and benefits of an organization’s respective solutions throughout the utility industry. These alliances help deliver end-to-end energy management solutions, reaching from a consumer’s home all the way to the utility back office and operations center.

These key smart grid players each will bring their expertise to create a robust smart grid ecosystem. Key smart grid components include advanced meter infrastructure (AMI), distribution automation (DA), meter data management and cybersecurity. No company can develop and deliver all of these technologies, which is why partnerships and effective collaboration are essential.

These technologies created by various companies are all part of the smart grid vision and will make the smart grid a reality.

  • AMI. The first part of the smart grid ecosystem is advanced metering infrastructure (AMI), commonly referred to as smart meters or advanced metering. AMI is recognized as the foundational technology platform enabling the future smart grid. Often it is the first milestone in connecting utilities to the smart grid. AMI solutions enable measurement, monitoring, communication and control of energy delivery and use.
  • DA. Generally viewed as the next logical smart grid milestone after AMI, distribution automation (DA) supports the reliable and efficient delivery of electricity. Utilities no longer must rely on customer phone calls to discover power outages. Products such as digital protective relays and switching systems help utilities quickly detect, isolate and restore power during outages, as well as monitor demand and shift loads to alleviate overload conditions.
  • Distribution management systems. Distribution management systems aid DA by monitoring and operating the distribution system, ensuring that energy efficiently gets from a power plant or generation source to the end consumer. Distribution management systems optimize voltage levels, manage power factors and detect outages for fault isolation and service restoration.
  • Demand response management systems. Demand response management systems manage demand response programs that incentivize consumers to change their behavior and use less energy during peak-load times. By leveraging technologies and programs to manage the demand side of the energy equation, utilities can optimize their supply portfolios and distribution systems in response to price increases and system conditions.
  • Meter data management and analysis. Meter data management applications manage huge volumes of interval metering data, which help utilities understand energy use and empower consumers to change consumption behaviors. Advanced software tools analyze consumer behavior and distribution assets, as well as deliver short- and long-term forecasting capabilities. Robust software analytics go hand in hand with any advanced metering program or smart grid initiative as the logical link to consumer empowerment and conservation, as well as analysis of the energy delivery system.
  • In-home displays and Web portals. In-home displays (IHDs) and Web-based portals are key components to consumer engagement. They give consumers the ability to monitor usage in near real time. They deliver meaningful feedback on how consumers’ habits impact their electricity bills and allow them to make more informed decisions about how and when they consume electricity.
  • Communication networks. A smart grid communications architecture includes various interconnected networks—a network of networks. Each layer addresses specific application requirements of cost and longevity and latency and bandwidth. Utilities can use a public network through a cellular or wireless communication provider or a private network they own and control.
  • Cybersecurity. Information in the smart grid often is distributed wirelessly across public and private communications networks, making cybersecurity a key component of smart grid deployment. In addition to the security capabilities of smart grid devices, cybersecurity companies are dedicated to ensuring a safe, secure smart grid.
  • System integrators. With the many parts and pieces required to deploy new metering infrastructure and distribution systems, utilities often require the help of a system integrator to manage the overall program or deployment. These consulting firms help oversee all aspects of a deployment to ensure the project is completed in a timely, efficient manner.

This complex industry is bigger than any company. We must work together. The smart grid will secure our energy future, ensure reliable energy delivery at the lowest possible cost and lead to an entirely new economy. It also represents an enormous challenge. Realizing the promise of the smart grid will require the best thinkers with the most direct experience working together. The importance of collaboration can’t be overstated. The stakes are too high.


Joe Ball is business development director for smart grid and OpenWay at Itron Inc. He works with partners and third-party companies interested in interfacing and integrating with Itron’s smart grid solutions.

Milt Shirlock is vice president of strategic alliances at Itron Inc. He is responsible for managing Itron’s global alliance program, including telecommunications, solution integrator, management consulting and software application firms.


ENTSO-E Releases Series of Papers

The European Network of Transmission System Operators for Electricity (ENTSO-E) has released a series of papers including a look at undergrounding and studies on the North Sea.

The undergrounding study looks at future transmission projects. It provides information on the feasibility and technical aspects of partial undergrounding of EHV transmission lines. The document focuses on the use of 400 kV XLPE cables, a technology that performs well based on established international standard IEC 62067. From a technical aspect, ENTSO-E finds that partial undergrounding can be a viable option. Reliability and cost issues exist with repair time and investment.

A North Sea offshore grid development was defined as a priority area by the European Commission in its November blueprint on infrastructure. In its paper “Offshore Grid Development in the North Seas” ENTSO-E concludes that the current approach of radial shore-to-shore connections will reach its limits, as transmission system operators expect major increases of wind generation volumes in the North Seas by 2030. ENTSO-E recommends a coordinated and integrated offshore grid aiming at fewer landing points, accommodating larger and more distant-from-shore wind parks, and efficiently enabling trade among the North Seas countries.

ENTSO-E site:

A Step Forward for Global EV Rollout

The International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) and e8, a global organization of 10 world-leading electricity companies, brought together all major stakeholders that need to collaborate to accelerate the global rollout of electric vehicles (EVs).

At this high-level, international roundtable Jan. 19 in Washington, D.C., all participants supported the IEC’s existing and proposed international standards for EV charging.

The objective of the roundtable was to determine priorities for the development of EV-related standards, to define future needs and to accelerate the broad adoption of the relevant international standards that will enable global interoperability and connectivity.

The auto industry considers EVs one of the key solutions to maintain sustainable, individual transportation. Governments increasingly push for electrified transportation to reduce carbon dioxide emissions as a tool to fight climate change. In a recent speech, President Barack Obama said he wants to see 1 million EVs on U.S. roads by 2015. Today only about 1 percent of electricity produced is used in transportation, but this sector contributes roughly 20 percent of carbon emissions.

While all parties work intensely on developing technologies that will enable a more energy-efficient future, utilities are expected to deliver the fuel that will drive those electric cars. Without significant investment in infrastructure, however, a broad EV rollout will remain fiction.

“To make mass charging possible, global solutions are needed,” said Frank Kitzantides, former IEC vice president who chaired the roundtable as IEC senior technology consultant. “Charging systems must be user-friendly, largely the same and safe and easy to operate and use. To achieve this, all stakeholders need to cooperate to better understand each other’s role.”

To ensure sufficient energy supply and to develop the necessary charging infrastructures, future e-mobility developments must be considered. To achieve this, all stakeholders must be involved. Standardization must be quick and international to achieve global technology rollout and durable infrastructure development without market fragmentation because of incompatible charging systems.

In Washington, the IEC offered a platform for high-level representatives of major car manufacturers including BMW Group, Ford Motor Co., Mitsubishi, Nissan Motor Co., Renault and Toyota Motor Corp., and equipment manufacturers such as Eaton Corp., General Electric Co., Hubbell Inc. and Schneider to sit together with utilities such as American Electric Power Co. Inc., Duke Energy Corp., Electricite de France, Electrobras, Hydro-Québec, Kansai Electric Power Co. Inc., State Grid Corp. of China and Tokyo Electric Power Co. These organizations were joined by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE), the Electric Power Research Institute and International Organization for Standardization (ISO).

All stakeholders confirmed that the IEC’s existing and proposed international standards for EV charging (on the charger side: plug, socket and cord; on the vehicle side: connector and inlet) satisfy their global needs. Four charging modes have been retained, covering AC and DC charging. All participants underlined their preference for using IEC, ISO and International Telecommunication Union international standards. Finally, all parties underlined the importance and usefulness of this new joint platform initiated by the IEC and e8. Follow-up meetings already are being planned.

Frost & Sullivan Reveals Energy Trends

The global energy industry is undergoing unprecedented changes. Rapid increase in energy consumption in the developing world will drive growth for the global energy market. China is becoming the world’s largest energy consumer. Huge demand for power will come from Africa and India, as well, thanks to rural development and electrification. Market participants must start preparing for the oncoming spike in demand.

To help companies effectively navigate the market and achieve growth objectives, Frost & Sullivan, the Growth Partnership Co., presented top energy trends expected to dominate by 2020.

“In today’s increasingly changing and competitive environment, market participants must continuously look for promising business opportunities,” said Beatrice Shepherd, Frost & Sullivan’s director for CEE, Russia & CIS, in a presentation called “Energy Policy of the Future: Top Ten Global Trends.” “The energy industry, a key sector to the world economy, is particularly important and must be closely monitored in order to maximize investment returns by understanding what is impacting the market.”

The main trend in the global energy industry is power demand growth; the world energy consumption is projected to increase 44 percent from 2006 to 2030, according to the Energy Information Administration.

Europe, with its aging fleet of power plants, would require some 25 GW of additional generation capacity annually up to 2020, according to Frost & Sullivan estimates. Demand for power in Africa, China and India will rise with rural electrification efforts. Developed countries will support the energy demand significantly by endorsing electric and hybrid vehicle expansion. Global electrification will reach 80 percent by 2020.

The demand for electricity has far exceeded existing grid capacity. Coupled with the rising number of decentralized energy generation units, it is forcing most utilities to improve their measurement and monitoring network structure by implementing smart technologies. Smart meters form an integral part of the bigger movement toward the smart grid. The United States and Europe already have started implementing smart meters, with Italy leading the race.

“The smart grid is becoming a multibillion-dollar market, which is expected to scale unprecedented heights in the near future,” Shepherd said.

Another trend in the energy market is liberalization, which is limiting the activity of large energy monopolistic utilities and opening up the energy market for competition. The idea of cross-border trading of electricity, supported by the European Commission and implemented worldwide, could help pave the way for a continental high-voltage direct current (HVDC) electrical grid capable of easily transmitting renewable energy across borders.

Frost & Sullivan site:

NEMA Responds to NIETC Overturn

The National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) expressed its disappointment with the outcome of the Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) efforts to establish two National Interest Electric Transmission Corridors (NIETCs) as a result of a decision by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that overturned the DOE’s 2007 NIETC designations. The NIETCs were proposed under authority granted in the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (P.L. 109-58).

NEMA President and CEO Evan R. Gaddis said the court’s decision to invalidate the designation of these two corridors delays the timely development of a more reliable electric grid in two of the most congested areas in the country.

“Delivering power, including power from renewable energy sources, to where it is needed should be a national priority and this cannot be done without adequate high-voltage transmission lines,” Gaddis said.

The DOE designated the Mid-Atlantic region and a region in the Southwest surrounding Los Angeles and San Diego as areas where electric constraint or congestion is hurting consumers to an unacceptable degree. While not an approval of any particular interstate transmission project, this designation would allow the applicant to apply to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) if the applicant fails to receive approval from a state.

The court decision only reinforces the importance of NEMA’s advocacy for a legislative solution that gives FERC expanded authority to site high-priority interstate transmission lines and the ability to coordinate federal environmental reviews, just as FERC has for interstate natural gas pipelines.

The current siting process for interstate transmission lines is too slow and costs the public too much, said Jim Creevy, NEMA director of government relations.

“NEMA is redoubling its efforts to ensure that the nation’s transmission infrastructure is not an impediment to our energy security,” he said.

More PowerGrid International Issue Articles
PowerGrid International Articles Archives
View Power Generation Articles on
Previous articleDoD to use landfill gas to energy technology
Next articlePersonal Information Concerns Smart Grid Developers
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

No posts to display