The Choice of a Savvy Customer Validates Smart Grid Investments

By Farah Saeed, Frost & Sullivan

A recent Frost & Sullivan customer survey of U.S. homeowners illustrates that, if given a choice, the vast majority will sign on to a utility’s demand response program. Furthermore, the vast majority are willing to replace existing home appliances in favor of a smart home appliance. The primary motivator for these homeowners is to reduce their electricity bills. Only 16 percent of respondents are actually willing to sign on to demand response without expecting any savings in return.

So why are monetary savings the primary motivator? The answers can be retrieved from the following observations.

First, customers do not pay much attention to electricity nor consider availability to be a problem in the near future. This is despite the fact that 68 percent of respondents do recall experiencing at least one blackout, with 44 percent of respondents recalling a blackout experience in the past two years. These issues are not enough for customers to make a judgment on the availability of electricity.


Instead, customers are very much aware and concerned about a growing electricity bill. Approximately 49 percent of homeowners state that they have seen a 5 percent to 10 percent increase or a more than 10 percent increase in their electricity bill over the past year. (See Figure 1.)

Of these respondents, 46 percent blame the cost increase on the rate per kilowatt hour. Consequently, 64 percent of respondents are willing to change usage habits to save on their electric bills. The average monthly electricity utility bill is around $137, and approximately one-fourth of respondents are expecting at least 15 percent to 20 percent savings through demand response programs.

Utilities have an opportunity to capitalize on this savings sentiment. They can do this by enhancing current and planned demand response programs, whether it is dynamic pricing with enabling or without enabling technology or direct load control.

Nearly half of all energy consumers are undecided or do not have a preference when it comes to signing on to a demand response program. Forty percent of respondents, however, would actually sign up to demand response and energy management programs through their current utility. This indicates a strong comfort level with consumers’ existing utility. Currently, there are relatively few respondents aware that their utility may introduce smart grid related technologies into their community. Utilities, therefore, can expect an acceleration of demand response programs by advancing promotional efforts. (See Figure 2.)

There is an argument that customers’ saving sentiment supports the case for continuing investments with advanced meter infrastructure and distribution management systems. This is to effectively roll out demand response programs due to strong customer interest. (See Figure 3.)

Demand response clearly can support state initiatives such as efficiency resource standards, which set goals for reducing energy consumption through energy efficiency measures. There are currently 26 states in the U.S. that have passed one of these standards. Additionally, there are presently more than 27 million smart meters already deployed in the U.S., which could act as the communication gateway between the home appliances and the utility. An acceleration of demand response and energy management program roll-out is clearly required.


Farah Saeed is a principal consultant with Frost & Sullivan.

The statistics used in this article are from a homeowner survey conducted during the spring of 2011 by Frost & Sullivan. The primary intent of this survey was to learn consumer perceptions towards demand response and power curtailment programs. This survey was a repeat survey that was conducted in 2009 with some modification.


IEC and EVs

The IEC (International Electrotechnical Commission) recently published two international electric vehicle (EV) charging standards. The two standards reflect a global consensus on the plugs and sockets that are needed to charge EVs.

Ronnie Amit, CEO and general secretary of the IEC said, “The IEC has clearly heard this call from industry and doubled its efforts to reach consensus on the most appropriate EV charging systems. The two newly published IEC international EV charging standards represent the first step towards satisfying this urgent market need and provide the basis for stakeholders to build the EV charging infrastructure.”

What do these two newly published international EV charging standards cover?

IEC 62196-1 contains the general requirements for the charging system, while IEC 62196-2 standardizes three types of mains connecting systems, known as Types 1, 2 and 3.

  • Type 1—single phase vehicle coupler (vehicle connector and inlet), for example Yazaki or SAE J1772 (Japan, North America).
  • Type 2—single and three phase vehicle coupler and mains plug and socket-outlet without shutters, for example VDE-AR-E 2623-2-2.
  • Type 3—single and three-phase vehicle coupler and main plug and socket-outlet with shutters, for example SCAME plug.


Which of these is appropriate depends largely on the electrical infrastructure and regulatory conditions in each country.

The above standards build on IEC 61851-1, which defines the four modes of charging an EV from a power source.

  • Mode 1 (AC)—slow charging from a standard household-type socket-outlet.
  • Mode 2 (AC)—slow charging from a standard household-type socket-outlet with an in-cable protection device.
  • Mode 3 (AC)—slow or fast charging using a specific EV socket-outlet and plug with control and protection function permanently installed.
  • Mode 4 (DC)—fast charging using an external charger.


Modes 1 to 3 should fully charge an EV between three hours and ten hours through direct connection to a mains supply.

Mode 4 could fully charge an EV in under ten minutes, but, as it uses off-grid batteries, it is the most expensive to implement.

IEC 62196-1 applies to all four of these modes while IEC 62196-2 applies only to mains charging (Modes 1 to 3). A third standard, IEC 62196-3, is being developed to standardize DC charging (Mode 4).

China Leading T&D Contender of the Future

GlobalData, an industry analysis specialist, has released “Transmission and Distribution Infrastructure—Global Investment Analysis to 2030,” which provides insight into global T&D during the period 2006-2030. Findings include:

Asia-Pacific Region to Dominate T&D Investment During 2011-2030: The cumulative T&D investment in the Asia-Pacific region during this period is estimated to be around $2.5 trillion. The bulk of these investments will be made in distribution infrastructure. North America will remain the other major region to invest significantly. The period 2011-2030 will see North American nations investing more than $1 trillion in T&D technologies. The U.S. will emerge as the key nation in this region to drive the investments.

Distribution Technologies to Grab More Money Than Transmission: Distribution technologies will attract more investments than transmission technologies during the period 2011-2030. The investments in distribution technologies at a global level are expected to constitute around 67 percent of total transmission and distribution investments, while investments in transmission technologies will account for the remainder. Rural electrification will be the greatest driver in distribution investment.

Rising Population, Economic Growth Major Investment Drivers: Rising population in the Asia-Pacific nations has prompted governments to frame policies for deeper penetration of electricity. Electrification will demand greater installation of distribution lines, transformers, relays and meters, which entails greater investments in distribution infrastructure. Irregular supply of electricity leads to annual business losses to the tune of billions of dollars. A stable electric supply has thus become a prerequisite for many economies to support their economic growth.

China to Make Largest Investment in T&D: China will emerge as the largest investor in transmission and distribution technologies for the period 2006-2030. China has embarked on an ambitious mission to upgrade its power grid, and has set aside billions of dollars for the purpose. The country is expected to account for 23 percent of all the global investments made in power transmission and distribution infrastructure during the period. These large investments will be required to support its plan to construct new transmission lines to connect Central and Western China with the hydropower generation centers in Eastern China. Its intention to add greater capacities of renewable energy will see a large number of high voltage lines being constructed to connect the remotely located plants. Distribution investments will also increase as it extends electric connections for its rural and semi-urban population.

More on GlobalData at

KEMA Opens U.S. Smart Grid Lab

KEMA, an authority in energy consulting, testing, and certification, officially opened its Smart Grid Interop Lab (SGIL) in Erlanger, Ky., in October. The new lab is a dynamic testing center for smart grid technologies. It is designed to simulate real-world conditions and test end-to-end functionality of smart grid elements, such as in-home displays, electric vehicle charging, smart meters, and customer information portals. The lab provides independent testing of specific designs within a specific environment, enabling flexibility and innovation within existing smart grid programs and configurations.

EV charging testing includes major manufacturers and the ability to test within a smart grid network.
KEMA SGIL is connected to labs in Arnhem, the NL, and universities via Green Energy Green Bus software to conduct virtual live testing around the world.
Scott Foster, KEMA (center) shows the capabilities of KEMA’s SGIL to test smart appliance interoperability to guests at KEMA’s SGIL grand opening.

“One of the most important enablers that made the Internet possible was a robust, flexible framework of interoperability standards that allowed countless different types of devices to communicate end-to-end, work together, and exchange information. This is the vision for the smart grid,” said George Arnold, Eng.Sc.D., national coordinator for smart grid interoperability with NIST.

KEMA SGIL architecture is designed to test the interoperability of smart appliances and EVs, including the ability to receive and test demand response signals from the ISO.

Inside KEMA’s SGIL. Diagram in the foreground illustrates how devices can be switched within the smart grid network to test interoperability. Background shows EV charging testing with many charging devices.

“KEMA is taking a leadership position in offering impartial state-of-the-art interoperability testing, advancing compatible technologies, and assisting with the advancement of industry standards. It is only through this type of innovation that we can realize the smart grid vision to provide clean, efficient power for the twenty-first century economy,” he added.

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