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Fresh news on smart grid, IoT and green technologies

Why Tesla won’t disrupt utilities

It’s getting to the point where utility executives can’t surf the Internet anymore without their stomachs churning. Whenever they go online, everywhere they look, they see predictions that Tesla Motors is going to put them out of business. This idea seems to have originated about a year ago, when several analysts working for investment bank Morgan Stanley penned a report titled “Batteries + Distributed Generation May Be a Negative for Utilities.” In it, they included a subsection titled “Projected decrease in costs of Tesla’s batteries and distributed generation could significantly disrupt the relationship between utilities and their customers.”

Before long, the Morgan Stanley analysts had plenty of company. An article on the tech website The Verge was headlined “Why Tesla’s battery for your home should terrify utilities.” And in an article carried by Bloomberg News titled “Tesla Battery Jolts Shares to Highs on Power Grid Disruption,” the author explained that “Utility customers throughout the U.S. have already begun turning to battery storage and solar panels as a way of reducing electricity bills and their dependency on local power companies. … By lowering the cost of energy-storage with its lithium-ion batteries, Tesla could accelerate the disruption of the electric utility business. …”

A Washington Post article titled “Why your next home might be battery-powered”argued that “improving technology, falling prices and backing from electric car giant Tesla could soon make the battery powered home cheaper and easier than ever, challenging the long-held utility model of dependence on outside energy.”

Even Tesla CEO Elon Musk couldn’t resist getting into the act. In the widely publicized press conference in which he announced the advent of Tesla’s new line of stationary battery products, he proclaimed, “You could actually go, if you want, completely off-grid. You can take your solar panels, charge the battery packs and that’s all you use.”

More here.

America’s Power Plan: The top 5 trends in the US energy transformation

America’s power sector is undergoing a dramatic transformation, challenging regulators to make sure policy keeps up with technological innovation, often leaving utilities in a tumultuous position – but a new set of policies can put us on the path toward a cleaner, more affordable, and more reliable future.

Consider a few of the shifts underway: The price of renewables is plummeting, fueling a striking ramp-up of wind and solar. Coal-fired power plants are retiring while EPA’s proposed Clean Power Plan is forcing conversations about optimizing the grid to integrate higher shares of renewables and energy efficiency. Innovations like energy storage, demand response, and performance-based regulation are offering the power sector a new set of tools and changing customer relationships with utility companies.

The 150 electricity policy experts from America’s Power Plan (APP) forecasted many of these changes in 2013, and while America has come a long way in its transition toward a cleaner, more affordable, and more reliable grid, we’ve still got a long way to go. That’s why today, APP released an updated set of recommended policies to the Mid-Atlantic Conference of Regulatory Utilities Commissioners’ annual education conference.

More here.

CertiNergy and Wattics Forge European Partnership to Fast-track Energy-Efficiency Projects

Dublin, Ireland, Paris, France and Milano, Italia — June 3rd, 2015 CertiNergy Group and Wattics Ltd today announced a partnership to fast-track energy efficiency projects throughout Europe, by aligning Wattics’ big data and analytics capabilities with CertiNergy’s Group’s large portfolio of commercial and industrial clients.

The innovative partnership aims to help CertiNergy Group redefine the way energy performance contracting and energy efficient certificates are managed, and to accelerate adoption of energy conservation measures, which are grounded in four core capabilities:

  • A new class of self-learning analytical energy management tools to empower CertiNergy professionals managing thousands of sites throughout Europe in real-time
  • Unique Wattics cloud services to automate the measurement and verification practices of energy conservation projects through European-adopted standard (IPMVP)
  • Wattics agile services and support tailored to the needs of the CertiNergy’s clients
  • Scalable Cloud-based energy management platform with wastage discovery engine, tariff analyzer, saving projections, energy breakdown and an outstanding user experience.

The new partnership aims to lead the big energy data analytics, energy performance contracting and saving certification markets through collaboration that draws on the distinct strengths of each company: Wattics, a Dublin-based team of talented engineers with a proven track record of software innovation, fused with CertiNergy Group’s energy saving solutions, energy certifications, project financing and outstanding consumer care.

As was pointed out by Edouard Jounet, CertiNergy’s co-founder and head of the group’s international division, “The CertiNergy Group doesn’t plan on becoming a software development company. Our aim is to partner with select providers that offer the best software solutions on the market, and Wattics clearly meets this description. We are convinced by Wattics’ innovative technology and the synergies between our respective offers are evident. This kind of collaboration makes sense in CertiNergy’s broader strategy to bring an improved and operational Energy Management service to our clients and partners.”

Wattics’ CEO Antonio Ruzzelli says, ”We are absolutely delighted to partner with CertiNergy Group. The EU 2020 energy-efficiency targets are at the heart of our partnership and we are dedicated to assisting CertiNergy to make an impact towards this. Wattics has a history of innovation and we will keep on innovating so to provide differentiations and a competitive advantage for our partners. Our analytics bring energy data to life, creating insights and context for energy managers. Our technology has already helped global organisations to achieve better use, better production and better distribution of energy. Our mission is to empower energy professionals and utilities to simplify and promote their crucial work, streamline how energy variables are accounted for and deliver outstanding customer satisfaction.”

About Wattics

Wattics are a team of software engineers that developed an innovative cloud-based energy management platform using advanced software algorithms to uncover energy wasteful patterns and deviations from the norm, energy trends to produce actionable insights from raw energy measurements. Wattics has recently launched on online tool that seamlessly integrates a wide portfolio of data sources for measurement & verification, offering an effective solution to fast track and manage projects. The platform has demonstrated a four-fold increase in user engagement and doubled the energy saving measures implemented. For more information and to enquire about partnership opportunities, contact Wattics at info@wattics.com or visit www.wattics.com.

Gillian Wilkie – Wattics Marketing Executive | +353 (0)87 100 580 | gillian.wilkie@wattics.com

About CertiNergy Group

The group’s creation results from the merger between CertiNergy SAS that was born in Paris in 2008, and has since experienced a rapid growth allowing Certinergy Group to emerge as a leader for Energy Efficiency Obligation (EEO) services in Europe, and Utilities Performance, one of the leading French auditing and engineering company in energy and water management, in France and worldwide, for over 30 years. Today the group has over 1000 energy-efficient projects with over 350 employees and an annual turnover of roughly €110M. Today the group boasts years of operational knowledge in this rapidly evolving sector and presently delivers “energy savings certificates” in France, Italy, UK and Poland. CertiNergy Group experts provide assistance to regulators, energy suppliers, third parties, and installation companies dealing with EEOs and their regulatory frameworks. For more information contact CertiNergy at info@CertiNergy.com or visit www.CertiNergy.com.

Amélie Lebreton – CorioLink Agency | +33 (0)6 70 60 25 30 | amelie.lebreton@coriolink.com

The OpenADR Standard Enables Diverse Demand Response Programs

The OpenADR standard for automated demand response is often misunderstood as just a standard for demand response. In fact, it is a powerful standard capable of supporting a broad spectrum of applications that fall under the demand response umbrella. As the only global standard for demand response, OpenADR is uniquely positioned to address a multitude of load control and load management applications.

In an effort to help utilities and system operators create more demand response programs and further product development, the OpenADR Alliance created an OpenADR 2.0 Program Guide.  This draft document defines typical automated demand response (ADR) programs and explains how they are implemented using OpenADR 2.0. The OpenADR Program Guide expands the range of demand response (DR) deployment scenarios available to energy providers, while giving equipment manufacturers additional information on typical DR Program usage models so they can support a full range of DR programs in their products.

The program guide provides utilities with examples of typical DR programs so that they can model their own DR program implementations, and equipment suppliers can understand typical DR Program usage models to help validate interoperability. The program guide provides templates for popular DR programs. These templates include:

  1. Critical Peak Pricing: This rate and/or price structure is designed to encourage reduced consumption during periods of high wholesale market prices or system contingencies by imposing a pre-set high price for a specific time period (such as 3pm – 6pm on a hot summer weekday).
  2. Capacity Bidding Program: This program is used by Independent System Operators (ISOs) and utilities to obtain pre-committed load shed capacity from aggregators or self-aggregated customers when they anticipate high wholesale market prices, power system emergency conditions, or as part of normal energy resource utilization by calling DR events during a specified time period.
  3. Residential Thermostat Program/Direct Load Control: This demand response program describes utility or other energy service provider communications with smart thermostats or remotely controls enrolled customer loads, such as air conditioners. These programs are primarily offered to residential or light commercial customers.
  4. Fast DR Dispatch/Ancillary Services Program: Fast DR is used by ISOs and utilities to obtain pre-committed load response in “realtime.”  Resources are typically dispatched with a latency ranging from 10 minutes for resources that are used as reserves to 2 seconds for resources that are used for regulation purposes.
  5. Electric Vehicle (EV) DR Program: This demand response activity modifies the cost of charging electric vehicles to cause consumers to shift consumption patterns.
  6. Distributed Energy Resources (DER) DR Program: This demand response activity smooths the integration of distribute energy resources into the Smart Grid.

More here.

Exploiting Untapped Sources of Energy Information

Data is key to unlocking energy efficiency savings in commercial buildings. Yet, most energy management solutions cannot gather the amount and heterogeneity of data required while maintaining a reasonable payback period. One opportunity often neglected is whether buildings’ existing infrastructure could, in lieu, be exploited to retrieve streams of data, thereby precluding costly measurement devices and deployment burden.

Data is ubiquitous in commercial buildings, and although the data’s original data collection purpose may be irrelevant to energy use, its production and sole existence may intimately be related to an event that connects to a specific energy event. For instance, most data packets flowing across a LAN are transmitted from PC-class machines; as such, the capture of a network packet tells that a machine is powered on, and that a person might be using that machine and therefore be physically present within the building at the time the packet was transmitted. Using existing legacy data sources for a purpose other than for which it was originally provisioned is an opportunity that has as yet not been explored sufficiently.

This post presents primary findings gathered from a thorough exploration of data sources available in commercial buildings. Data sources with the potential to uncover a wide range of energy insights have been identified and are analysed. The impediments inherent to infrastructure reuse are also discussed.

More here.

Tool to help manufacturers select wireless network that’s right for them

Going wireless is appealing to a growing number of manufacturers. Using wireless sensor networks to monitor and control equipment and processes eliminates the costly labyrinth of dedicated cabling to hardwire devices, enables flexibility in organizing operations, and expands opportunities for keeping tabs on plant-floor conditions and performance.

But before making the leap, companies need to be certain that a candidate platform will reliably capture and communicate measurement data in harsh industrial environments with lots of sources of interference. Interrupted, delayed or incomplete hand-offs of critical data could be dangerous for workers and disastrous to production.

To help manufacturers make confident decisions, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has set out to develop best practice guidelines for evaluating wireless-sensor-network performance and selecting the option that best meets their requirements.

“Our goal is to develop a tool that will enable manufacturers and their technology suppliers to design, assess, select and deploy secure, integrated wireless platforms that perform dependably in factory conditions,” NIST’s Rick Candell said during this week’s International Instrumentation Symposium in Huntsville, Ala.

Candell, head of NIST’s Wireless Platforms for Smart Manufacturing project, noted that a variety of standards-based technologies have been adapted or developed to support industrial wireless applications. The guide will include benchmarking tests and metrics for comparing how well different technologies meet specific sets of requirements, he said.

NIST is in the early stages of commissioning a wireless network that will replicate a smart manufacturing environment. It will re-create conditions representative of a variety of industrial settings and support development of network-performance measurements and tests. The test bed also will be used to evaluate the usefulness of NIST network models and simulations.

To ensure that the test bed accurately reproduces the messy and challenging realities of a variety of manufacturing operations—from chemical processing to aerospace—the NIST team is making a special request. They are asking companies to open their plant doors so that the researchers can characterize conditions and factorssuch as heat, vibrations, reflections, interference and shielding obstacles that impact network performance.

More here.

Is Energy Efficiency Taking a Back Seat in Food and Beverage Manufacturing?

Sustainable manufacturing and green initiatives aside, energy efficiency is a tough sell. Plentiful oil and gas supplies coupled with moderate pricing don’t make it any easier. Nonetheless, utility companies and regulators continue to prod industrial users along the efficiency path, offering carrots to complement sticks to travel that route.

More than 350 rebate programs from utility companies, government agencies and other entities are available to U.S. manufacturers who upgrade to premium efficiency motors, ballparks John Malinowski, senior industry affairs manager at Baldor Electric Co., Fort Smith, Ark.

Rebates can shave a few months off ROI calculations, but efficiency ratings on today’s electric motors make the difference between premium and standard motors negligible. A small uptick in motor efficiency is less meaningful than reliability and productivity gains, and those are the kinds of benefits OEMs are trumpeting, not energy efficiency.

Energy consumption barely registers as a consideration when fans are installed to improve worker comfort; after all, a ceiling fan is a poor man’s air conditioner, and it sips electricity compared to a compressor.  Comfortable workers likely are more productive workers, although quantifying gains attributable to better air circulation is as difficult as calculating throughput improvements from better lighting.

More here.

Tesla + EnerNOC Collaborating On Deployment/Management Of Commercial + Industrial Energy Syorage Systems

Tesla has yet another new partner for its new energy storage business, as the manufacturing company and the energy intelligence software provider EnerNOC will be collaborating on the deployment + management of storage systems at a number of different commercial + industrial buildings, according to a recent press release.

The new partnership will allow businesses to monetize the batteries through demand charge management and demand response via the use of of EnerNOC’s software solutions, according to the companies. The collaboration will initially be based in California.

“By working together, EnerNOC and Tesla can help enterprises find new, innovative ways to save money and get paid for their operational flexibility,” stated Tim Healy, Chairman and CEO of EnerNOC. “Energy storage has great potential and is a natural fit with energy intelligence software. We are excited to explore the possibilities with Tesla.”

Reportedly, EnerNOC customer sites are already being outfitted with some of Tesla’s energy storage systems.

The Vice President of Construction and Maintenance at the Southern California supermarket chain Stater Brothers Markets, Scott Limbacher, commented on that: “Energy management today is more complicated than simply buying power from the utility. Innovative companies like Tesla give us new options that enable us to reduce our reliance on the grid when prices are high, and EnerNOC’s software gives us the visibility we need to make informed decisions about when to use these technologies and how to measure the impact they’re having on our business.”

More here.

Energy Investors Should Follow Elon Musk (Almost) Anywhere

The world now knows. The future will be powered by batteries. The recent announcement by Elon Musk of his Tesla MotorsTesla Powerwall has begun to focus attention on the potential of this technology to combine with distributed solar power generation, among other renewable technologies, to allow a carbon-less, or at least a less-carbon energy future, with not only Teslas on the road but also cars by Apple and Google.

Musk and his tech colleagues think big and think disruption, so don’t be surprised if this bet pays early and often. So, no surprise, I would put a buy and hold recommendation on Tesla, plus a basket of the other companies developing energy storage solutions. Not only is this the next big thing, it will likely be a lasting thing.

Not that oil is now over. Oil will be with us for a very long time. I “called the bottom” of the great over-hyped plunge of 2014/2015 and also predicted the current point of the recovery in this column. But we are at the dawn of Elon Musk’s future, so investors should follow his process.

What else besides batteries and electric cars? While you could consider following Musk’s “in real life” escape velocity play in SpaceX–with ethicists considering the moral implications of copulation on a permanent Mars base–a more down to earth investment strategy may be to simply follow the logical extension of the Powerwall business model. Battery storage will never reach its full potential until another technological innovation is widely adopted: smart grids.

There is nothing new about smart grids, which bring digital technology to the analog grid for real time controls of this now antiquated infrastructure, allowing for robust responses to changes in demand and supply resulting from both normal use patterns, as well as events such as outages from natural or unnatural disasters.

But the other thing that smart grids can do, and indeed are needed for, is to provide for the efficient management of a transmission system that allows for energy to flow in multiple directions, from and to points of use and generation, like a home or business that both consumes and produces energy by hosting rooftop solar panels. And does that without line loss that frustrates the point of the distributed generation. So Elon Musk’s batteries will not be saving the planet any time soon unless many of the largest global economies also start to build out smart grid systems.

We’ve been hearing about smart grid since the dawn of the Obama administration and the stimulus package. That was where some of that “shovel ready” money was supposed to go. The problem was the smart grid wasn’t quite yet shovel ready and much of the national grid is owned by private companies. But smart grid hasn’t gone away, and companies like Siemens, Qualcomm and Verizon have been working away at it.

More here.

Demand Response Markets in Europe Begin to Blossom

The opportunities for demand response in Europe are growing — and REstore is raising money to grow with them.

On Thursday, the Antwerp, Belgium-based startup announced a €7 million ($7.5 million) Series C capital round, to expand operations from its home country and the U.K. to France and Germany, and to beef up its data analysis and control platform for the industrial and commercial customers it’s tapping for flexible electricity load.

In the past four years, REstore has grown from a few megawatts of industrial load to more than 1 gigawatt of peak load under management, serving more than 80 industrial customers including ArcelorMittal, Praxair, Sappi and Barclays. Its revenues grew 700 percent from 2013 to 2014, and since the end of last year, it’s increased its share of “95 percent reliable” load from 250 megawatts to 350 megawatts — a measure of how much can offer equal or better certainty than natural-gas-fired power plants of being there for grid needs.

REstore’s new round, led by existing investors LRM, Axe Investments, Ark Angel Fund and other individuals, brings its total capital raised to €11 million ($12.5 million), according to Thursday’s announcement. REstore wants to grow its always-available portfolio to more than 2 gigawatts by 2018, and “that’s steep growth, and that requires some capital,” co-CEO Jan-Willem Rombouts said in a Thursday interview.

It’s also seeking to expand to “a European-wide scale,” he said, to match an expanding set of opportunities for turning flexible loads like steel smelters, freezers, pumps, fans and manufacturing lines into grid resources.

Europe’s demand response needs aren’t driven by summertime peak loads as they are in the United States. Europe does have some wintertime electric heating loads — but the bigger drivers are the system-wide effects of the continent’s growing share of intermittent wind and solar power, REstore co-founder Pieter-Jan Mermans said.

“Our power plants are increasingly being mothballed. That’s a trend that’s crystal clear, and will not be reversed any time soon,” he said. “Second, the penetration of intermittent renewables continues to grow, which means real-time volatility on the grid.”

More here.

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