Guest Commentary: Introducing the Global Smart Grid Federation

Guido Bartels, Global Smart Grid Federation

Change is hard. Global change is harder.

Countries around the world have embarked on programs to expand and update their aging electric grids. Utilities, consumers, environmentalists, innovators and governments, however, have yet to agree on the scope and timeframe of these changes.

Smart grid challenges the way we have produced, delivered and used electricity for decades—fundamentally changing a system that for most people is hidden from everyday view. Although some governments get it, a global collaborative effort to educate all stakeholders about this transformation’s benefits will be critical for successful and widespread adoption.

The success of making our global electric grid smarter lies in an evolutionary process that can be enhanced greatly by international cooperation. Communication among regulators, technologists and business leaders on a global scale is vital to sharing information and strategies that can impact rapid development and deployment of smart grid around the world—improving efficiency, integrating intermittent renewable energy, reducing carbon dioxide emissions and stimulating economic growth.

By advancing smart grids worldwide, we can couple energy efficiency at the consumption end with renewable energy—solar, wind, geothermal, hydropower and biomass—at the production end, while enhancing the effectiveness of building control systems, plug-in electric vehicles and other technologies. For example, wind farms need digital dispatch, energy storage and dynamic forecasting—all smart grid solutions—to integrate effectively to the grid.

Smart grid is the ultimate enabling platform for successfully addressing climate change and driving economic growth. According to a Pacific Northwest National Laboratory study in the United States, beginning in 2010, deploying smart grid technologies would significantly reduce electricity and carbon emissions by 2030; a direct reduction of 12 percent and another 6 percent indirectly. Carbon emission mitigation will be a key benefit of fully deploying smart grid technologies, one which will have a global impact. Okinawa Electric Power Co. in Japan, for example, began operating a smart grid to control the supply of renewable energy-derived electricity for the 55,000 people who live on the remote Okinawa Prefecture island Miyako-jima.

Recently another study commissioned by the GridWise Alliance concluded that a $16 billion federal investment by the U.S. government, coupled with state and private cost sharing, could produce $64 billion worth of smart grid projects and create 280,000 jobs in three years. Smart grid technologies offer a worldwide business opportunity for entrepreneurs, start-ups and industries engaged in energy or technology development. So, while it is true that we will need fewer meter readers, we still will need meter technicians, communications network managers and engineering analysts who interpret the data meters and sensors collect. We will need people to help consumers understand their energy use and set up the tools they need to make changes that reduce their energy bills. In addition, we still need the people with the knowledge and skill set to operate, maintain and repair the lines and transformers that remain. Smart grid jobs in the U.S. and globally will provide economic stability and benefit.

Promising pilots, as well as full-scale projects, are being deployed on all continents as governments recognize that expanding and modernizing their electric grids are essential for driving economic growth, successfully tackling climate change and ensuring energy security. The Korean government recently announced a plan to spend $350 billion during the next three years in five areas, including green transportation and smart grid projects. Similarly, the Australian government is investing $100 million across five cities in and around Sydney as part of the country’s Smart Grid, Smart City project.

Using different approaches, countries can learn a lot from one another. Facilitating a free and open exchange of ideas and best practices is the purpose of the newly formed Global Smart Grid Federation. Its seven founding national organizations—GridWise Alliance (U.S.); India Smart Grid Forum; Japan Smart Community Alliance; Korean Smart Grid Association; Smart Grid Australia; SmartGridIreland; and SmartGrid Canada—will help other countries understand and overcome their own smart grid challenges. In addition, providing solutions to global smart grid implementations’ most challenging obstacles, the federation will work with government policymakers to execute a national smart grid agenda, helping officials understand key challenges, including consumer engagement, regulatory models and innovation.

Change doesn’t happen overnight; it’s an evolutionary process that begins with a powerful idea, effective collaboration and a compelling strategy to get the work done. Global communication will help produce smarter consumers, utilities, governments, and, most important, energy system. Without this international effort, the potential smart grid benefits will be difficult to achieve.

Guido Bartels is general manager of the global energy and utilities industry at IBM and chairman of the GridWise Alliance. He recently was named chairman of the board to the newly formed Global Smart Grid Federation. 

EU Energy Commissioner Gets on 2020 Bandwagon 

Kathleen Davis, Senior Editor

No one was sure the day would come, but on Nov. 10, EU Energy Commissioner Gàƒ¼nther Oettinger threw his weight behind a united EU energy front at a press conference at the EU headquarters in Brussels. European and even global media has speculated in the months since his appointment that Oettinger might back the more conservative flow of a fellow German, Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is Oettinger’s party chairwoman and worked hard a couple of years ago to weaken stronger EU group energy concepts.

Instead, Oettinger drew back the veil on a trillion-euro unity plan for the next decade. At the top of the to-do list was saving energy and achieving a competitive and securely supplied energy market. The European Commission hopes to achieve those goals through technology leadership and negotiations.

“The energy challenge is one of the greatest tests for us all, “Oettinger said. “Putting our energy system onto a new, more sustainable and secure path may take time but ambitious decisions need to be taken now. To have an efficient, competitive and low-carbon economy we have to Europeanize our energy policy and focus on a few but pressing priorities.”


On the Agenda 

At the press conference Oettinger identified five priorities for legislative initiatives and proposals through the next 18 months, including:

1. Energy savings, especially in the transport and buildings sector. Energy efficiency is the big push, with a look at financial incentives for homeowners, industry and municipalities to make the deal sweeter by mid-2011.

2. Pan-Europe energy, complete with an integrated energy market and infrastructures (including gas and electricity). In rather strong wording, the commission said that “by 2015 no Member State should be isolated.” To do so that quickly will take a lot of investment. That’s where most of those trillion euros come into the plan. To help speed things, the commission wants to simplify permits and set up a “one-stop shop” for coordination.

3. “One voice for 27 States.” The EU wants to coordinate energy for the continent down to policy. Africa gets to play, too, pulling in provisions to cooperate with its southern neighbors on sustainable energy.

4. More innovative tech technology. Four major projects in key areas for Europe’s competitiveness will be launched under this program that covers technologies for intelligent networks and electricity storage, research on second-generation biofuels and the smart cities partnership to promote urban energy savings.

5. Go, go, European consumer. The EU wants “safe, secure and affordable energy through active consumers,” according to the plan’s wording. To do so, changes will occur in how consumers compare prices and how fast or slow they can switch suppliers. In addition, the commission wants to clear up billing and make it more transparent.

These goals are an extension of the “Europe 2020 Strategy for Smart, Sustainable and Inclusive Growth” as adopted by the European Council in June. The EU aims to achieve ambitious energy and climate change objectives for 2020: Reduce greenhouse gas emissions 20 percent, increase the share of renewable energy to 20 percent and make a 20 percent improvement in energy efficiency.

The first EU Summit on Energy will be Feb. 4, 2011, Oettinger said. 

GridWeek Promotes Collaboration, Education, Conversation 

Kristen wright, associate editor

More than 1,500 GridWeek attendees and a huge international presence listened Oct. 18-21 in Washington, D.C., as smart grid gurus circulated one clear message: Collaboration is a must.

“Smart grid is the indispensable heart of energy,” said Gary Locke, secretary of commerce, during the opening keynote.

The former two-time Washington state governor said that barriers to smart grid are not all technical, and it is important to coordinate standards across borders. A portion of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act smart grid funds are designated for the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). It has rolled out Version 1.0, he said.

“Of 75 initial standards, 77 percent are international standards,” Locke said.

Domestically, the most difficult challenge is altering how we use energy, he said.

“State regulators are very important,” Locke said.

An international collaboration roundtable supported Locke’s statements. Panelists were: David Velazquez of Pepco Holdings Inc.; George Arnold of NIST; Lars Clausen of DONG Energy in Denmark; Satoshi Morozumi of NEDO, and Paul Camuti of Siemens Energy Inc.

Velazquez provided insight about Pepco’s recent smart meter installation in Washington, D.C. Pepco completed a pilot to test consumer pricing schemes. Its biggest challenge is conveying what the change will mean for customers, he said, but that might be different for other utilities.

“Different countries have different goals,” Velazquez said.

None of those goals are achievable without the smart grid, he said.

DONG Energy’s Clausen discussed the utility’s increase in wind power, most of which is offshore.

“We will deliver carbon-free energy by 2040,” Clausen said. “This is doable. It is happening.”

Arnold emphasized collaboration. There must be a common language to communicate, he said. The most efficient way is to select standards that already exist, he said. Most are international standards.

“The laws of physics don’t change from country to country,” Arnold said.

NEDO is planning international activity in Asia, Morozumi said. Plans include: renewables integration in China; demand-side management and power quality improvement in China; and application of large-scale photovoltaics for industrial parks in India or Southeast Asia.

Electric vehicles also headlined conversations at GridWeek. Camuti said Siemens is putting a fleet of 100 electric cars in Germany.

“We have to get large-scale renewables into the cities,” he said.

And Denmark will be the second go-ahead with Better Place after Israel, Clausen said.

“To us, the main issue is smart charging,” he said.

Juan Verde, deputy assistant secretary for Europe at the U.S. Department of Commerce, presented about U.S. export opportunities for smart grid technology to Europe.

He said Italy has the fastest smart meter start with 20 million in five years. Sweden has a 100 percent smart meter penetration rate, and Italy is second, Verde said.

Smart grids will eclipse the Internet in business opportunities, he said.

“The smart grid is also about companies thinking smart,” Verde said. “Export now.” 

Viridity Energy, SEPTA Project to Recycle Energy Produced by Electric Public Transit 

Viridity Energy, a Philadelphia-area smart grid company, has received a $900,000 grant for its project with the nation’s sixth-largest public transit organization.

As part of the project, Viridity Energy will deploy its software optimization system to allow Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) to recycle the energy created from the regenerative braking ability of trains and trolleys at a high-use propulsion substation in Philadelphia, which will improve power quality, produce energy savings and generate revenues. Pennsylvania awarded the Viridity Energy SEPTA Recycled Energy and Optimization Project funding through the 2010 Pennsylvania Energy Development Authority (PEDA) grant program.

The project will pair the latest 21st-century technologies and energy optimization practices with one of the country’s oldest transportation systems, dating back to the deployment of electric trolleys in 1892. Mass transit systems across the country are striving to maintain high-quality service while facing growing fiscal challenges, which are further compounded by rising energy costs. The pilot represents a large and untapped potential for transit systems to help meet these challenges and improve grid reliability in highly populated urban neighborhoods.

The project calls for Viridity Energy and SEPTA to install a large-scale battery to capture the energy from regenerative braking of trains TThe stored energy will help balance electric generation and electric load on the PJM interconnection system while assisting PECO Energy Co. preserve the reliability of its electric distribution system.

As part of the pilot, SEPTA expects to generate some $500,000 in economic value for the agency. A successful pilot could lead to potential deployment at all 38 SEPTA substations. This expansion could translate into significant savings from SEPTA’s current electricity spend. 

Smart Meters Not Cure-all? 

Smart metering is a not a cure-all for the utility industry’s woes, and there is a strong risk it will not deliver on some of its promises, Ovum has found.

Smart meter and smart grid investments help address issues utilities companies face, Ovum principal analyst Stuart Ravens said in “2011 Trends to Watch: Utilities Technology.”

Smart meters could increase some costs, and investment in further new technologies also is needed, the report states.

“The utilities industry is facing some tough challenges and pressure is coming from all sides: concern over CO2 emissions is high, billions need to be invested in infrastructure and resources are becoming scarce,” Ravens said. “In addition, the rising cost of fuel forces utilities to drive down operating costs, their workforce (sic) is aging rapidly and they are experiencing an increase in payment defaults due to the economic downturn.

“Smart grid and meter investments will go a long way to address these problems, but to extract the full value of smart energy, utilities will require further new technologies such as analytics, billing and CRM systems.

“Furthermore, customers may struggle to understand the benefit from smart meters and may be confused by the additional complexity smart meters bring. There is a very strong risk that this increase in complexity will cause an increase in customer service costs.

“While these benefits are significant, they should not be overestimated and seen as the answer to all the problems the industry is facing,” Ravens said. “While they could make an impact, the reality is that there is also a possibility they will not deliver what utilities are expecting.” 


ESB Networks, EPRI Demonstrating Elements of the Smart Grid 

ESB Networks, the electric network utility in Ireland, and the Irish government are developing one of the most comprehensive smart grid initiatives that will support the government’s aggressive targets for wind integration, energy efficiency, and electric vehicle integration, according to the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI).

ESB Networks has joined the smart grid demonstration initiative organized by EPRI to collaborate during the development of the smart grid in Ireland while learning from other smart grid deployments around the world.

The Electricity Research Centre (ERC) of Ireland and 16 industrial partners are helping coordinate and conduct the ongoing smart grid research. The two Ireland government agencies associated with this effort are the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) and the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER).

A key aspect of this demonstration project will be to understand the challenges of integrating renewable energy resources such as wind power into the electricity grid. The country has a target of providing nearly 40 percent of the total electric energy production through wind energy by 2020. Because it is an intermittent resource system, operators must understand how this resource will impact grid planning and operations.

This ESB Networks smart grid project will explore further development of wind farm connections, assess the effectiveness of customer response and interest in demand and consumption management, investigate the readiness of secondary networks for high penetration of electric vehicles and maximize existing distribution electricity networks.

The project has four primary elements:

1. Renewable integration. With a target of providing 38 percent of the total electric energy production in Ireland with wind energy by 2020 and more than half of this wind generation being connected at the distribution level, advanced approaches for integrating the wind generation management with management of the grid are needed.

2. Energy efficiency. Ireland has established a goal to improve energy efficiency 20 percent by 2020. ESB Networks has established a target to be a carbon-neutral utility by 2035. Energy efficiency initiatives include measures to reduce losses in the supply system and an extensive trial that is designed to understand customer response to pricing and technology strategies for reducing and shifting energy use.

3. Electric transportation. Ten percent of vehicles in Ireland are expected to be electric by 2020, and there is expected to be 6,000 electric vehicles in Ireland by the end of 2012. ESB Networks is installing 1,500 public charging points and 30 fast chargers by the end of 2011. The first 2,000 vehicle owners will get free domestic chargers. The smart grid initiative includes an assessment of electric distribution system impacts associated with increasing penetration of electric vehicles, including a trial in South Dublin.

4. Flexible grid. The smart grid initiative is defining new technologies and control strategies that will be used to integrate demand-side resources, storage and renewable generation with the reliable and secure operation of the grid. EPRI and collaborating electric utilities in the past two years have developed tools to support the advancement of integration of distributed energy resources in large-scale demonstrations, said Arshad Mansoor, EPRI senior vice president of research.

“The ESB Networks project will enhance the knowledge we are acquiring and will benefit the entire industry,” Mansoor said. 

Duke Lineman Named World Champion Apprentice at 27th Event 

Duke Energy distribution lineman Aaron Smith was named World Champion Apprentice at the 27th annual International Lineman’s Rodeo, held recently in Bonner Springs, Kan.

He also made rodeo history by being the first competitor ever to score 100 percent on the apprentice written test. Participants can earn up to 100 points per event. Smith finished with a score of 498 out of 500 possible points.

“To have a near perfect score in the international competition as an apprentice has got to be one of those once-in- a-lifetime experiences,” said John Lowe, Duke Energy training specialist. “Aaron has put in a lot of time preparing for the competition and takes pride in his ability on the job at Duke Energy.”

In addition to receiving overall honors and acing the written test, Smith finished first in the apprentice category in the investor-owned utility (IOU) division.

The Richfield, N.C., resident competed against more than 200 apprentices in the international competition. The apprentice division is made up of line workers who are within their first four years of the trade.

Apprentice competitors were judged on their skills, professionalism and safety in a series of events consisting of a hurt man rescue (simulated rescue using a mannequin hanging from a 40-foot pole), pole climb, cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) with automated external defibrillation (AED), one mystery event and a written test.

“The International Lineman’s Rodeo is an opportunity for linemen to walk onto the field of competition and prove to everyone that they are the best,” said Lowe. “Linemen by nature are very competitive, and this is their opportunity to prove it.” 

Lineman’s Rodeo Hits KC 

Kathleen Davis, Senior Editor

On a drive to Kansas City, a traveler follows in the beaten track of Wilbert Harrison. One Harrison-inspired trip could be to the International Lineman’s Rodeo, which visited host town Overland Park, a suburb of Kansas City, Oct. 14-16, 2010.

2010 marked the 27th year for this annual linemen event, and this version was packed with an exhibit floor and the rodeo events, which happened in Bonner Springs, Kan., another suburb of Kansas City.

Kansas City Power and Light along with Westar Energy hosted this well-attended event attracting the best of the best in linemen from across the country and around the world. The rodeo on Saturday pitted utility teams against one another in a number of traditional lineman tasks from pole climbing to hurt man rescue. There were also a number of “mystery events,” where the teams didn’t know what they would be tested on until they arrived on site.

The first Lineman’s Rodeo was held in September 1984 with 12 participating teams from Kansas and Missouri. In 2010, teams from Canada, Hawaii and even Brazil participated.

The expo at the Overland Park Convention Center featured a number of exhibitors from Aircraft Dynamics to Buckingham Manufacturing Co., from Duratel to POWERGRID International‘s own sister publication Utility Products.

The exhibit floor attracted around 2,500 people before the rodeo. In addition, for 2010, more than 150 teams and around 200 apprentices registered for the rodeo.

Arizona Public Service topped the charts for the journeyman hurt man rescue this year. Oklahoma Gas & Electric was No. 1 in the journeyman pole climb. Southern California Edison came out the winner in the apprentice CPR event and Arizona Public Service was back in the game with the apprentice hurt man rescue.

The 28th Annual International Lineman’s Rodeo & Expo is scheduled for Oct. 12-15, 2011.

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