Fresh news on smart grid and green technologies
In October 2009, the Department of Energy named 99 projects as winners of a collective $3.4 billion in smart grid investment grants from the federal stimulus package. Combined with $4.5 billion in private-sector funding to match, the Smart Grid Investment Grant (SGIG) program represented a $7.9 billion, one-time boost for smart meters, distribution automation, transmission grid intelligence and customer connectivity technology.
Now, four years later, we’ve got a new update on how the majority of that money has been spent so far, and what it has accomplished, in the form of DOE’s SGIG Program progress report (PDF). Along with this update comes a reminder from DOE that $7.9 billion still represents “a relatively small down payment on the hundreds of billions of dollars the electric power industry will need to fully modernize the electric grid over the next several decades.”
Indeed, the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) has projected that U.S. utilities will need to invest roughly $17 billion to $24 billion per year to achieve a long-term payback of $1.3 trillion to $2 trillion in benefits by 2030. We’ve already seen reports from DOE on the economic impact of its stimulus grant-backed programs (PDF), as well as independent assessments of how these projects have been delivering economic benefits to utilities and their customers.
But with most of DOE’s SGIG programs still awaiting a final reckoning on how they’ve performed on meeting their myriad targets, we’ve still got a ways to go before the full picture becomes clear. Here’s a breakdown from DOE’s new SGIG update on spending across different technology categories, along with some key points on which categories of technologies have largely completed their work on schedule — and which ones still have their work cut out for them.
Xively, a subsidiary of LogMeIn LOGM and creator of the first public cloud platform for the commercial Internet of Things (IoT), and Linear Technology LLTC today announced they have entered a partnership to accelerate the availability of ultra-low power cloud-connected products. By integrating Linear Technology’s Dust Networks SmartMesh IPTM wireless sensor networking Starter Kit with Xively Cloud Services, the companies are providing developers and OEMs with a highly cost-effective, end-to-end IoT solution, from initial prototyping and validation through wide-scale commercial deployment and management.
“We’re excited to team with LogMeIn and Xively to drive development of next-generation connected devices. Developers who use the SmartMesh IP Starter Kit with Xively’s IoT platform will get a cloud-enabled wireless sensor network with carrier-class reliability and ultra-low power consumption out-of-the-box, speeding time-to-pilot and reducing overall application development time,” said Ross Yu, Product Marketing Manager for Linear Technology’s Dust Networks.
“By partnering with Dust Networks, we’re making it easy for connected devices to be deployed anywhere data can be gleaned. Now, product builders and OEMs can leverage the Internet of Things for everything from smart parking and commercial building energy management to utility-scale solar plants and structural monitoring of bridges, tunnels and mines–and focus their time on their innovation instead of infrastructure,” said Mario Finocchiaro, Director of Business Development, Xively.
The SmartMesh IP wireless sensor network is built for Internet Protocol (IP) compatibility, and is based on the 6LoWPAN and 802.15.4e standards. SmartMesh IP networks deliver >99.999% data reliability and >10 year battery life, making it practical to deploy wireless sensor networks in the most challenging environments. The DC9000 Starter Kit now includes sample application code that allows a registered Xively user to simply connect the DC9000 kit to a web-connected computer, enabling the SmartMesh IP network to automatically be registered as a Xively “product,” and the nodes and sensors to securely send data to the user’s Xively cloud as “devices.”
The daily operations of an electric utility like fuel resource planning and taking strategic decisions in balancing the supply and demand of electricity are influenced by load forecasts. When the electricity market has undergone a revolution, load forecasts have gained lot of significance spreading across other business departments like energy trading, financial planning etc. Accurate load forecasts are the basis for spot price establishment for the system to gain the minimum electricity purchasing cost in the market environment. Utilities showing growing interest in smart grid implementations, load forecasting is of even greater importance due to its applications in the planning of demand side management, storage maintenance and scheduling, renewable energy sources integration etc. It also benefits the electric consumer in understanding the relationship between the demand and price and varying the electricity usage pattern according to the price.
The consumer uses electricity for various purposes like water heating, refrigeration, room cooling & heating etc. to increase his/her comfort level of living. The switching on/off of various appliances are dependent on weather conditions (switching on AC during high temperatures), time of the day (switching off lights during the day time period) and some random events (switching on TVs during football or cricket matches). Hence, in the traditional grid, these factors influence the consumer’s electricity consumption. Now, in the smart grid scenario, the smart grid components like smart meters, distributed generation from renewable energy sources, storage cells and electric vehicles are also responsible for the variations in the consumer’s electricity demand at different time intervals at utility level.
Factors that influence Load Forecasting in Smart Grid
This section provides a brief overview of various factors, shown in Figure 1, that affect the electricity demand in the smart grid environment.
1. Weather: The role of weather in demand forecasting has increased with the involvement of renewable energy source generation in the smart grid. The generation from renewable energy sources like solar cells and wind turbines are highly dependent on weather conditions. A partial cloud on a sunny day for a temporary period will reduce the output of solar generation and the corresponding change on the wind speed affects the output of wind generation. Due to this, the estimates from the renewable energy sources which can meet a particular capacity of demand at utility level will vary. Hence, the need for high accurate weather forecasts which include temperature, humidity, wind speed, cloud cover etc. has increased in the load forecasting.
The global smart metering market is predicted to reach $19.8 billion by 2018. And according to research carried out at by GDS International, organisers of the Next Generation Utilities Summit, executives on both sides of the Atlantic are investing heavily in smart meters, security and infrastructure as they look to make the smart grid dream a reality. Figure 1 shows an increase in the number of North American utilities industry executives prioritising smart grid security, smart meters and AMI over the last three US summits.
Figure 2 shows that smart meter, smart grid security and AMI are also the highest investment priorities for European energy execs at present.
The fact that both Europe and North America show virtually identical data in terms of their investment priorities shows the importance of smart grid projects right now for utilities firms globally – and also suggests much work remains to be done in both markets.
Indeed, in Europe alone the EU Commission estimates that investment of around €50 billion is required in order to reach its target of 250 million smart meters by 2020, while a further €480 billion will be required to upgrade the rest of the system by 2030.
Smart grid investment, including metering, security and infrastructure, will be key discussion topics at the upcoming Next Generation Utilities Summit Europe, taking place in April 2014. For more information, please visit: www.ngueurope.com
Texas Instruments (TI) (NASDAQ: TXN) announced the availability of a ZigBee Light Link™ development kit that simplifies the development and control of wirelessly connected LED lighting products. The new kit includes a remote control and supports smartphone and tablet connectivity through gateways including Ninja Blocks, cloud-enabled computers based on the BeagleBone open-source computer platform powered by TI’s Sitara™ AM335x ARM®processors. Through simplified control, users are able to dynamically configure colors, groups and scenes. With a simple connection to a cloud gateway, the new kit makes it easier to connect LED bulbs and other lighting products to the Internet of Things (IoT) using ZigBee networking. For more information, visit: www.ti.com/lprf-zllkit-pr.
For consumers, a ZigBee wirelessly connected lighting system delivers richer user interfaces and more flexible control on top of the basic on, off and dim operations. There is absolute flexibility to place and move switches and other controls anywhere in the home versus wire-controlled products. This enables the design of lighting systems for home and office environments that allow individual task lighting for desk, table or countertop to be placed anywhere. Additionally, through use of a gateway, users can control lighting from anywhere using a smartphone or tablet app.
Traders to meet in Berlin to discuss the way forward
“Energy prices are crucial for a region’s or country’s competitiveness,” says Walter Boltz, Executive Director Energie-Control Austria (E-Control) and Vice Chair Regulatory Board ACER. He adds: “in the United States the gas price is just a third of the European gas price. If Europe wants to avoid de-industrialisation something needs to be done against this price difference. Otherwise we will increasingly see how energy intensive industries prefer to invest in the US rather than in Europe.”
Mr Boltz is a speaker and opening session panelist at the upcoming EMART Energy which will gather more than 850 energy traders from 26-27 November in Berlin.
He regards the current key challenges to the energy markets as multifaceted. He explains: “how can back-up thermal plants be economically viable; how can we ensure intermittent power supplies complement security of supply; how can we foster competition in retail markets to reflect the improvements we have seen in wholesale markets?”
“This mindset will have to change”
According to the E-control Executive Director some solutions to these challenges will undoubtedly increase risks for traders and producers: “for example, we are likely to see more regulatory intervention in the form of capacity mechanisms. This will inevitably impact producers and traders due to the influence of capacity markets on both near and long-term price signals.”
He notes that many of the emerging problems require cross-sector solutions. He continues: “so far we have seen gas and electricity players acting as if in separate, largely isolated boxes – for example TSOs. This mindset will have to change. Market participants will also have to bear in mind that there is no guarantee for CO2 prices to continue at the low levels we currently observe; several member states are not satisfied and consider carbon floor taxes to be ineffective.”
With regards to renewable energy in the market Mr Boltz says “the various support systems have taken competition-free bites out of the market, and the traded part of the market is shrinking. This is endangering our achievement of the original goals, i.e. market liberalisation and an integrated European electricity market. The market framework has to be designed to ensure a level playing field for conventional and renewable energy. In doing so, not only negative externalities like CO2 output but also negative effects such as the non-availability of capacities must be borne in mind.”
Lack of retail competition
He says he is surprised and disappointed that there is still no real competition at the retail level, despite the fact that there have been more market entrants, increasing liquidity and short-term trading in wholesale energy markets. He adds: “for this to happen, we need further harmonisation of market structures and regulatory frameworks to underpin competition. Competition remains the best way to reduce end-user prices, even though several member states find regulated price regimes attractive.”
EMART Energy dates and location:
Opening session: 26 November, 11.45 – 13.15
Conference and exhibition: 26-27 November
Location: Estrel Convention Center, Sonnenallee 225, Berlin, Germany
Communications manager: Annemarie Roodbol
Telephone : 021 700 3558
iPhone users now have live information at their fingertips about electricity usage and generation in Ireland and Northern Ireland, following the launch of a new ‘smart’ app by EirGrid Group.
EirGrid Group – which operates the power grid in Ireland and Northern Ireland as well as the wholesale power market on the island – has launched its new SmartGrid application, coinciding with Responsible Business Week.
iPhone users can now download the new EirGrid Group SmartGrid application from the iTunes store.
SmartGrid allows users to see graphs on key energy-related data, in a straightforward and intuitive way. They get a real-time view of the power system in Ireland and Northern Ireland, with information direct from control centres in Dublin and Belfast.
The 1,000 Toughpad FZ-G1 Windows 8 tablets will be used by EDF field operatives to receive and send job information for smart meter installation work.
The UK government has said all 53 million meters in 30 million homes in England, Wales and Scotland should be replaced with smart meters by 2020.
The new meters take accurate readings of energy usage every day and, combined with a smart energy monitor, show how much energy is being used in pounds and pence.
These readings will be sent automatically to EDF Energy and consumers will receive an accurate energy bill without having to submit meter readings.
EDF Energy smart meter field operatives will be using the Panasonic Toughpad tablets to receive scheduling information during the day and to send installation information back to the office.
The tablet includes a camera and barcode reader for capturing digital images or scanning of the smart meter system’s assets. The device will be equipped with ZigBee short-range wireless technology, which EDF Energy and Panasonic are jointly developing, based on industry standard specifications for secure connections to smart metering equipment.
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Between 2004 and 2009, the production of traditional electromechanical electricity meters in the U.S. was gradually shut down in the wake of the successful introduction of solid state electronic meters. This transition was the most significant change in metering technology in over 100 years. Although it has been four years since the last electromechanical meters rolled off the assembly line, solid-state meters are still new from the utility perspective, and the industry is still becoming accustomed to their capabilities and limitations.
For an individual utility, it is not unusual for the replacement process of AMI systems to take as much as 5-10 years from initial planning to last meter installed. This is substantial relative to the service life of the meters themselves, and makes it imperative that the utility be able to monitor the health of their system. In addition to monitoring the present health, utilities also need prognostics (predicting the remaining functional service life of a part or system) that provide confidence that the system will continue to perform until its replacement.
EPRI is presently working with utilities to develop standard guidelines for AMI system Prognostics and Health Management (PHM). Until now, there have been no standard methods for PHM as it would apply to metering systems, so utilities have been independently developing their own techniques. As a result, the indicators can be difficult to understand and are not readily comparable across systems of different ages or designs.
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