Report: CenterPoint Energy, PG&E, SDG&E Lead Smart Grid Maturity Curve

Which are the most mature smart grid utilities in North America, and how are their respective smart grid technology road maps evolving? GTM Research is publishing its latest report, “The Utility Smart Grid Outlook in North America 2013,” which analyzes the utility smart grid deployments of 40 leading North American utilities. The report combines in-depth and targeted profiles for all 40 utilities analyzed with the maturity rankings both overall and within each of the following key segments of utility smart grid adoption

  • Smart grid portfolio;
  • Communication networks;
  • Data management and analytics;
  • Enterprise management and integration; and
  • Consumer engagement.
The Broad Scope of Smart Grid vs. NERC CIP

“By identifying and ranking utilities on the five most important components of a successful smart grid plan, it became evident where utilities are struggling and excelling,” said Emma Ritch, report author and senior analyst at GTM Research.

maturity of the top 10 utilities
Source: “The Utility Smart Grid Outlook 2013” (GTM Research)

As smart grid drivers shift from U.S. stimulus funds to operational efficiencies, utilities are demanding more than ever that vendors prove a business case to justify smart grid expenditures. In addition, it provides insight into the strategies utilities are employing to improve energy delivery efficiency and reliability.

GDF Suez Energy Resources NA Expands Presence in Ohio

GDF Suez

GDF Suez Energy Resources NA, one of the country’s largest competitive retail electricity providers to commercial, industrial and institutional customers, has entered two new Ohio competitive retail electricity markets.

The move broadens the pricing options and product offerings available for large commercial and industrial customers in the American Electric Power Ohio and Duke Energy service territories.

GDF Suez Energy Resources began pricing transactions April 22 for service that starts in June.

Sam Henry, GDF Suez Energy Resources president and CEO, said the expansion in these markets drives competition and brings more value in pricing and product options to consumers.

GDF Suez Energy Resources has served the Toledo Edison, Cleveland Electric Illuminating, Ohio Edison and Dayton Power & Light territories since June 2011.

To serve the central and southern Ohio markets, the retail electricity provider recently opened a sales office in Columbus and plans to hire additional sales people who will focus on that region of the Buckeye State.

Parent company GDF Suez Energy North America also has in its portfolio a 609-MW natural gas-fired power plant in Luchey, Ohio.

Eastern Interconnection Grid Planning Completes Transmission Analyses, Initiates Gas-Electric Interface Study

The Eastern Interconnection Planning Collaborative (EIPC) has completed the transmission analyses as part of an electric system transmission planning effort funded by the Department of Energy (DOE).

“The EIPC has reached a major milestone with the completion of the electric system transmission analyses of the stakeholder-defined scenarios for the year 2030,” said Stephen G. Whitley, president and CEO of the New York Independent System Operator (NYISO) and chairman of the EIPC executive committee.

Stakeholders had defined three scenarios as part of the first phase of the EIPC’s studies. As a result of the scenario analyses conducted as a part of the second phase, three future transmission systems were created to support the chosen scenarios from a reliability perspective. In addition, the capital costs to install the future resources assumed in each scenario and the cost to install the supporting transmission facilities were calculated along with the projected annual production costs. Documentation of these results is included in a comprehensive draft report on the study.

The three scenarios chosen by stakeholders are described in the report as:

1. Business as usual. This scenario represents a continuation of existing conditions, including load growth, existing renewable portfolio standards (RPSs) and proposed environmental regulations as they were understood during summer 2011.

2. National RPS (state, regional implementation). This scenario contemplates meeting 30 percent of the nation’s electricity requirements from renewable resources by 2030. This would be achieved by using a regional implementation strategy.

3. Combined federal climate, energy policy. This scenario represents a combination of: a reduction of economywide carbon emissions by 42 percent from 2005 levels in 2030 and 80 percent in 2050; meeting 30 percent of the nation’s electricity requirements from renewable resources by 2030; and significant deployment of energy efficiency measures, demand response, distributed generation, smart grid and other low-carbon technologies. This scenario would be achieved by using a nationwide/Eastern Interconnectionwide implementation strategy.

“DOE has requested that we continue the project to investigate if sufficient natural gas infrastructure exists to support the growing use of natural gas for power production, as well as the associated impacts on electric transmission planning,” Whitley said.

The effort to analyze the interface between the natural gas delivery system and the electric transmission system has just begun and supplements the ongoing work of the EIPC. EIPC will be continuing its Eastern Interconnectionwide transmission planning activities in 2013.

The natural gas study contemplates investigating the increasing reliance on natural gas for generating electricity. The expanding role of natural gas in the nation’s power generation was demonstrated in the capacity expansion analyses and production cost studies completed in 2011 and 2012. More information on the gas-electric interface study will be posted soon on the EIPC website.

Draft report:

FPL Completes DOE-supported Grid Enhancements, 4.5M Smart Meter Installations


Florida Power & Light Co. completed its Department of Energy (DOE)-supported grid modernization projects and the installation of 4.5 million smart meters in its 35-county service area.

FPL President Eric Silagy announced the milestones during a celebration at FPL’s grid-monitoring center in Palm Beach County that was attended by Patricia Hoffman, assistant secretary of energy for the Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability, plus local dignitaries and business officials.

“This is one of the most ambitious projects that has ever been undertaken in the country and definitely one of the most ambitious projects that FPL has undertaken,” Silagy said. “Completing the installation of the 4.5 million smart meters and the deployment of smart grid technology throughout our service territory is making it possible for us to improve our service reliability, prevent outages and detect problems while giving customers more control over the energy they use.

“In 2009, we began the deployment of state-of-the-art smart grid technologies as part of our commitment to building a smarter, more reliable and more efficient electrical infrastructure. While we celebrate the installation of 4.5 million meters nine months ahead of schedule, at FPL we never stop working to deliver reliable, affordable electricity for our customers.”

FPL was one of only six utilities in the U.S. to receive a $200 million grant from the DOE to help fund one of the largest, most comprehensive grid modernization projects. Four years later with an additional $600 million investment from FPL, the installation of these smart grid technologies place FPL among the first utilities to complete the commitment.

Reliant, Green Mountain Energy expand Thermostat Program


NRG Energy Inc. President and CEO David Crane announced an expansion of its successful partnership with Nest Labs Inc. to competitive markets nationally through two of its retail companies, Reliant and Green Mountain Energy Co.

Last year, NRG’s largest retail company, Reliant, became the first competitive electricity provider in the U.S. to offer the Nest Learning Thermostat. Reliant offered the Nest as part of a fixed-price electricity plan to help customers better understand and conserve energy. Beginning this summer, both Reliant and NRG’s renewable energy provider, Green Mountain Energy, will provide the Nest Learning Thermostat as part of its local electricity plans.

  • Reliant customers throughout Texas will have three ways to save electricity with Nest: the Reliant Learn & Conserve plan that features the Nest Learning Thermostat, which includes a free Nest; the new Reliant Free Weekends plan with Nest, the first plan to offer free energy charges all weekend, along with a Nest thermostat; and the Degrees of Difference program with Nest, which gives customers the opportunity to earn credits when they conserve during times of expected high electricity usage and lets them access both of Nest’s new services: Rush Hour Rewards and Seasonal Savings.
  • Green Mountain Energy customers in Texas, Illinois, New York and Pennsylvania who sign up for the Pollution FreeEfficient with Nest plan will receive Nest’s Seasonal Savings Service beginning this summer. Green Mountain Energy is Nest’s only retail electricity partner that is dedicated to cleaner energy.

More than 700,000 NRG customers through its retail companies use one or more of its smart energy solutions. In just three years, the company has launched a series of 10 innovative new products and services designed to give customers the tools and information they need to manage their electricity use and change the way they think about energy.

Utilities Race to Meet Changing Customer Communications, Reliability Expectations Amid Technology, Strategy Challenges

checkered flag

Utility business consulting and systems integration solutions provider Bridge Energy Group recently announced the results from its 2013 survey on customer enablement.

Bridge surveyed more than 20,000 utility employees about their views and experiences in customer enablement. Results show that 40 percent plan to add major new functionality to their existing customer information systems/customer relationship management systems (CISs/CRMs) and 37 percent plan to replace their existing CISs/CRMs, but 76 percent indicated that the supply of knowledgeable staff and system integration challenges are the two biggest CIS project inhibitors.

Most utilities recognize customers want more clear, bidirectional communications on outages, rate increases and billing issues; however, few utilities-9 percent-have a complete, integrated view of each customer to analyze the information and deliver on those expectations. In addition, with 69 percent planning to increase their focus on improving customer experience, they will face organizational obstacles including a lack of customer experience strategy, budgets, processes and technology.

Utilities were clear throughout survey responses that customers want bidirectional communication across mediums including text, social media and websites. The survey revealed that the current project initiatives-including the continued deployment of smart meters, completing advanced metering infrastructure rollouts and grid automation and expanding the use of demand management and other energy efficiency programs-are leading upcoming project work that will empower customers to save energy and money.


US, Europe will follow different smart grid road maps

smart grid road maps


The generation, transmission and distribution of electricity uses the same infrastructure architecture and technology throughout the world. The need to make the electrical grid a smart grid is driven by the same forces, but the solutions and road map to get there are diverging in the main developed regions of the world. This is because of a different emphasis on energy policy, the relative importance of different drivers and the current state of the transmission and distribution grid. Analyzing the differences by comparing current investment on smart grid across the U.S. and Europe tells the current status, where the effort is being concentrated and the reason for the divergence.

Memoori’s report on the status of the market in 2012 shows smart grid sales across the world reached $36.5 billion at installed prices in 2012. Of this, the U.S. contributed some 20 percent and Europe 10 percent. Based on the technical latent market potential to install a completed smart grid in each region, the U.S. has achieved a higher penetration. This is forecast to be sustained until 2017.

In the U.S., smart grid investment was some $7 billion in 2012, including refurbishment business to incrementally improve and smarten the control and reliability of the electrical network. Nevertheless, these numbers are disappointing, given that the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act provided a major incentive for the industry with more than $4 billion in grant funding for smart grid program demonstrations. This was significantly larger than any public funds contributed in Europe.

The U.S. also wins on the supply side with much higher levels of investment going into relatively new startups than in Europe. The supply industry in the U.S. has undergone major consolidation during the past three years and has a broad base of major and medium-sized companies. In addition, it has attracted the information and communications technology industry to buy into the smart grid business to develop big data solutions. The supply side looks more innovative and investment more readily available at this time. Does this mean the U.S. is ahead of the game compared with Europe?

Not necessarily. Europe-particularly northern Europe-started off with a much more stable grid than the U.S. It has been incorporating digital control systems across the transmission and distribution networks for many years, and its outage performance is among the best in the world. From this base it has accommodated significant levels of variable renewable energy (VRE) without yet installing full automated demand response (ADR). So does Europe think it has more time to design a system that through ensuring interoperability across all aspects of the grid will achieve its No. 1 goal of delivering a smart grid, maximizing its ability to accommodate VRE? Or is it waiting to learn from the U.S. demonstration programs before it commits to a multibillion-dollar investment?

Both factors apply, and in the case of the latter, Europe has learned from the smart meter programs in the U.S. that from the start it must ensure they are interoperable within advanced metering infrastructure (AMI). This has caused a rethink in Europe on how the program should be rolled out. Smart grid must deliver a fully joined-up solution that incorporates distributed power from variable renewable and other efficient sources, otherwise it will not meet its carbon dioxide reduction targets or minimize the cost of ownership. Average electricity prices in Europe are double those in the U.S., and Europe’s energy policy depends on VRE, which in the short to medium term will further widen the price difference. Europe must get it right the first time or suffer serious long-term economic consequences.

The road map for implementing smart grid must be driven by a country’s energy policy, and this must set the objective and benchmarks for smart grid. The U.S. is self-sufficient in fossil base fuels and particularly natural gas, which will allow it to accommodate VRE more gradually while reducing CO2 emissions. Europe relies on imported fuels for power generation, and natural gas is the only one that will be allowable in the future in the developed world. World prices for this energy source will rise significantly, and this will make VRE a more economical, viable and secure power source. In Europe, the driver and No. 1 objective is to deliver a smart grid that can accommodate as much renewable power as possible.

How much VRE power can be accommodated differs widely among experts in the U.S. and Germany. Germany is building its energy power model on the basis that by 2050, 80 percent of its power needs will be provided by VRE, and it will not need conventional spinning reserves. The thinking in the U.S. is that it would require conventional spinning reserves to be operational to accommodate VRE and that in the case of wind power, the tipping point for benefitting CO2 emissions could not exceed 20 percent of the total central power generated. Over this limit, spinning reserves will create more CO2 emissions and nullify any benefits, which are the sole reason for installing wind power in the first place.

But the proof of this will play out during the rest of this decade; Germany plans to have renewable sources provide 35 percent of its electricity by 2020 and 80 percent by 2050. Germany”Ëœs grid, which is not yet smart, is accepting 15 percent, and wind’s providing more than 9 percent of the country’s grid power while solar photovoltaic has more than a 5 percent share. But penetration rates can be much higher in real time. Solar production, for example, went from zero to 15.6 GW on Sept. 30, at which point it was meeting 30 percent of total demand and renewables supplied about 40 percent of Denmark’s power in 2011.

Both countries have robust grids and the lowest outage rates worldwide. Germany, however, recently has experienced grid stability problems in the eastern part of the country where more than one-third of its wind turbines are located. This concentration of generating capacity regularly overloads the region’s electricity grid and threatens blackouts. Manual intervention is needed.

Irrespective of the energy policy difference between the U.S. and Europe, smart grid’s future is assured in both regions.

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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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