WSNBuzzFresh news on smart grid and green technologies
The Thread Group has invited more companies to join its effort at harmonizing the “Internet of things” in consumers’ homes, but it still faces a tangled industry with competing and overlapping technologies.
The organization launched in July with a core group of major technology companies including Samsung, ARM Holdings, Freescale Semiconductor, and Google’s recently acquired home devices business, Nest Labs. On Tuesday evening at Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, California, it announced that other companies can now apply to join. The group is open to anyone, with memberships starting at $2500 per year.
Ambient Corp., a long-time grid communications player that went bankrupt last year, has managed to find a buyer with an interest in keeping Ambient’s technology alive. Swedish telecommunications giant Ericsson announced Wednesday that it has completed its acquisition of the Newton, Mass.-based company for a bargain-basement price of $7.5 million.
We’ve covered the rise and fall of Ambient’s financial fortunes, which were tied to its deal to supply its grid-node communications modules to U.S. utility Duke Energy. The company’s other projects were unable to make up for the gap in revenues that came when Duke stopped buying Ambient’s nodes, and the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in July after being unable to find a buyer.
Ericsson announced that it is folding Ambient into its Global Services organization, a move it believes will boost its “ability to help utilities maximize their investments in smart grids.” Ericsson provides communications for many smart grid projects around the world, including a project linking some 600,000 smart meters in Sweden for utility E.ON, a 630,000-smart-meter project with Landis+Gyr in Estonia, an industrial gas metering project with Italian utility Italgas, and work with Australian utility SP AusNet to network meters via 3G cellular.
Ambient’s bankruptcy petition listed $1.75 million in assets and $3.54 million in debt (PDF). The once-publicly-traded company was delisted from the Nasdaq stock exchange in July, and suspended its reporting obligations to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission in August.
Ericsson set out a $7.5 million stalking-horse bid soon after Ambient filed for bankruptcy, setting a floor price for potential competing bids. Ericsson also agreed to hire Ambient’s current employees and maintain all of them at their current salaries as part of its agreement, though the company’s CEO and COO may see their compensation reduced, Wayne Weitz, managing director of Gavin/Solmonese LLC, the firm hired as financial advisor for Ambient’s bankruptcy proceeding, told us in an August interview.
For decades, utilities have paid customers for demand response — that is, for turning down their energy use at certain times to help manage grid energy peaks. But who says utilities must be the middleman between power customers and these grid needs?
Not Ohmconnect. In the past several months, the bootstrapped, San Francisco-based startup has built a software platform and business model meant to bridge the gap between home energy savings and direct participation in grid markets.
And unlike most of the home automation and demand response platforms out there, Ohmconnect is taking grid market payments and transferring them directly to individual customers via monthly PayPal or Venmo deposits, based on exactly how much energy they reduce during these “OhmHour” events.
At least, that’s how the startup has launched its service so far, via pilot projects in California. Expanding its direct-to-market grid services model will require some significant changes to grid and energy market regulations — although in states like California and New York, these transformations are already beginning to happen.
So far, the startup has enrolled about 3,500 homeowners, mostly in the San Francisco peninsula region, though it’s expanding in territory served by Northern California utility Pacific Gas & Electric and plans to start courting customers of San Diego Gas & Electric in the next few months, co-founder Curtis Tongue said in an interview last week.
Ohmconnect needs to target customers in certain areas, because it’s aggregating and playing their combined power-reduction capabilities into grid markets that are focused on meeting more local grid needs, Matthew Duesterberg, CEO and co-founder, said.
For the past few years, we’ve been covering the saga of FERC Order 745, the 2011 federal ruling that raised revenues for demand response providers across the country, only to be overturned by a federal court this summer, putting the promise of future markets in doubt.
Last week, the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C. rejected a request from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the states of Pennsylvania, Maryland, and California to rehear the case. That means that FERC and the states, as well as demand response industry players, will have to face off in the Supreme Court against the power generator companies that brought the complaint, if they’re to pursue a legal victory.
Meanwhile, power generator FirstEnergy Corp. has asked the court to consider expanding its review of FERC Order 745, which dealt only with the small amount of demand response operating in so-called “economic” grid markets, to cover the much larger capacity markets as well.
These are all challenges for the demand response industry. But according to David Brewster, president of U.S. DR market leader EnerNOC, they pale in comparison to the proven benefits of managing demand to meet grid needs — and the state-by-state regulatory changes that are pushing it to the masses.
“At the end of the day, the success of DR has been the success of about twelve years of cooperation between state and federal governments, and it has led to billions of dollars of savings per annum, in reducing consumers bills,” he said in a Thursday interview. A report on Mid-Atlantic grid operator PJM showed that energy efficiency and demand response saved $11.8 billion in electric bills last year, a figure that’s projected to grow to $16 billion this year.
“I am confident that no matter how this shakes out, the value of DR will be maintained,” he said. “A legal technicality won’t put the genie back in the bottle.” He likened the power generators’ legal actions to “hotel lobbies trying to kill business models like Airbnb,” or taxi companies trying to get regulators to restrict ride-sharing startups like Uber.
In Illinois, about 90,000 people work in the clean energy sector — many at tiny firms with six people or less, developing technological innovations that aim to save customers money and ease the strain on the power grid. But they need one thing: data.
“We think there’s a lot of very interesting development in the clean tech space and one way or another a lot of those applications need data,” Dave Kolata, director of the Citizens Utility Board (CUB), an Illinois utility watchdog and ratepayer advocate, told Utility Dive.
Across the country, data-intensive smart grids are growing. Demand response programs require detailed analytics to optimize efficiencies; customers need the data to respond to pricing signals; technology developers need large banks of information to create products and systems aligned with their customers’ and markets’ needs.
But the challenge is how to move the energy usage data from the meter — which is collecting increasing amounts of detailed information — into the hands of those who can put it to work, all without compromising the privacy of customers.
Advocates want data to move ‘seamlessly and quickly’
In Illinois, the CUB and the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) have filed an Open Data Access Framework with the Illinois Commerce Commission intended to ensure that customers can easily move data to third parties.
“Once a customer consents, we want to make sure the smart grid systems are set up so the data moves seamlessly and quickly to third parties,” Kolata said.
“Seamlessly and quickly” are the key words here — and Kolata repeats them often.
The framework was filed in August and a hearing is scheduled for October 29. EDF and CUB are hoping for a final standard to be approved early next year. That’s because they want Illinois utilities ComEd and Ameren to incorporate it into their smart grid deployment plans when they go through their annual review in April 2015.
But there are really two distinct tracks to this process. Customers accessing their own data isn’t exactly controversial — the proposed data framework pushes for higher quality data and at greater frequency. The real challenge is in moving that data to third parties, be they research organizations or demand response providers. Unanswered questions revolve around how to ensure the data is private and secure, as well as easily transferable.
A new report from Navigant Research examines the global DR market with a focus on two key sectors: commercial/industrial and residential.
Efforts to limit power generation by utilities and reduce peak loads on the grid, along with the changing resource mix in electric grids globally, are creating new demand for demand response (DR) programs. While the United States is leading the way in the DR market, utilities worldwide are finding new ways to incentivize more active customer participation in DR programs. According to a recent report from Navigant Research, the total worldwide capacity of demand response programs is expected to grow from 30.8 gigawatts (GW) in 2014 to more than 196.6 GW by 2023.
“Technology advances in metering, controls, and end-use devices are making it easier for customers to participate in DR programs and to manage their energy usage,” says Brett Feldman, senior research analyst with Navigant Research. “At the same time, the retirement of large numbers of coal and nuclear plants, and the expansion of large-scale intermittent renewable resources like wind and solar power to fill this gap, are creating more need for backup solutions when the wind is not blowing and the sun is not shining. Demand response fills that need in an efficient and cost-effective way.”
As DR programs expand, though, the challenges are likely to grow as well. Market rule changes that attempt to standardize rules between DR and generation may put more requirements and risk on DR, according to the report. Also, as DR becomes a greater portion of the resource mix, it is likely to be relied upon more heavily. Thus, customer fatigue due to more DR events must be guarded against in order to maintain reliability and prevent customer attrition.
The report, “Demand Response,” examines the global DR market with a focus on two key sectors: commercial/industrial and residential. It provides an analysis of the regional market dynamics and players, global market drivers and barriers, and key technologies related to DR. Global market forecasts for DR sites, capacity, spending, and revenue, segmented by sector and region, extend through 2023. The report also analyzes the competitive landscape of DR to identify and highlight the strengths and weaknesses of the major players in the market.
European utilities are facing many challenges today, one of which is regulation. The energy efficiency directive is pushing utilities to decrease energy consumption by 1.5% per year. Meanwhile electricity consumption is stable but, the peak demand is growing. As a result, countries face growing challenges to balance supply and demand.
But, many utilities are not familiar with what happens behind the meter and this is where partnerships with demand management solution providers can help them achieve these regulatory goals, says Jean-Yves Blanc, Demand Management Vice President at Schneider Electric. He adds that some utilities do not understand the implications of demand management and will “fall behind their competitors.”
Blanc believes that despite directives and regulation, utilities are likely to follow the US example of demand management where in some states, they cannot increase tariffs until they can prove that they have adopted demand response solutions to improve energy efficiency. He says, “In Europe, demand response can only be made possible through the right directives or local regulation. The European Commission will probably move towards the same situation in the US by setting high level ambitious targets for the continent. Sooner or later, measures will be put into place to achieve this.”
Challenges of demand management in Europe
Europe’s demand response development is still at a very low level. Blanc blames this mostly on the region’s lack of favourable regulations. Olivier Baud, the President of Energy Pool – Schneider Electric’s subsidiary – which currently acts as a Demand Response operator, aggregating and coordinating large-scale end users in France and in a handful of other European countries–says that a negative mindset towards demand management can also be a significant barrier to its development.
Baud explains that grid operators typically meet demand fluctuations by turning generation units up or down. However the energy community is becoming increasingly aware that this is no longer sustainable and managing demand is now a priority:
As peak demand grows generally faster than average consumption, it becomes necessary to build additional dedicated thermal peaking plants to meet this fast-growing peak demand. However the profitability of those plants is seriously challenged as the number of their operating hours is shrinking, the fossil fuels on which they run become more expensive and their environmental impact becomes better reflected in prices.
In addition, renewable energy deployment is spreading fast and the large penetration of renewable energy generation units requires significant and expensive additional peaking units to mitigate supply intermittency risks. These important requirements further jeopardize asset profitability and GHG emissions reduction.
“Thanks to smart grid technologies, end users can actively help balance supply and demand”, says Baud. “Energy Pool is proud to be at the forefront of this revolution by implementing innovative smart energy management solutions that benefit all grid players. Peak consumption can now be reduced by up to 13% through demand management, compared to the 2-3% reduction from a time-of-use pricing system.”
Honeywell’s Smart Grid Investment Grant (SGIG) project demonstrates utility-scale performance of a hardware/software platform for automated demand response (ADR). This project stands apart from the other SGIG projects in that it focused both on the development of an ADR hardware/software platform to facilitate demand response and on recruiting and educating ADR customers to participate in energy saving programs sponsored by utilities. Honeywell partnered with three California utilities (PG&E, SDG&E, and SCE) to help target customers and make the project a success. The ADR system enables participating customers to automatically respond to utility notifications of demand response events, curtail demand of pre-selected equipment, and save money from lower off-peak rates and utility incentive payments.
Download the report. Please forward this email to your colleagues that may be interested in this initiative or future notices email alerts from SmartGrid.gov. The ADR system enables participating customers to automatically respond to utility notifications of demand response events, curtail demand of pre-selected equipment, and save money from lower off-peak rates and utility incentive payments.
Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, USA (16 September 2014) – The International Society of Automation (ISA) announces today that ANSI/ISA-100.11a-2011, “Wireless Systems for Industrial Automation: Process Control and Related Applications,” has been unanimously approved by the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) as an international standard and will be published by year end with the designation IEC 62734.
Since its initial approval by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) in 2011, ISA-100.11a-compliant devices have found wide global use, with more than 130,000 connected devices reported in 2012 and over 1 billion hours of operational service at customer sites.
ISA-100.11a was originally developed with international collaboration following ISA’s open consensus process as accredited by ANSI, which requires participation and voting by experts from multiple stakeholder groups including end-users in addition to suppliers—ensuring that all views and needs are taken into account. ISA100 voting members, including those from end-user companies deploying wireless systems in real-world industrial applications, overwhelmingly voted to approve ISA-100.11a.
ISA-100.11a / IEC 62734 provides reliable and secure wireless operation for monitoring, alerting, supervisory control, open loop control and closed loop control applications. The standard defines the protocol suite, system management, gateways and security specifications for wireless connectivity with devices supporting limited power consumption requirements. The focus is to address the performance needs of process manufacturing applications, which include monitoring and process control where latencies on the order of 100 ms can be tolerated, with optional behavior for shorter latencies.
IEC 62734 utilizes Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6), adheres to the OSI model and uses object technology – all necessary to support the Industrial Internet of Things (IIOT). In addition, the standard fully supports the ETSI EN 300 328 v1.8.1 European Union specification taking effect in 2015. Current industrial wireless products branded as ISA100 Wireless® already meet this requirement.