A Primer on the Smart Grid and Intelligent Utility Network Trend

Smart Grid2 In a world where increased focus is on reducing CO2 emissions, governments and energy & utility companies are looking for ways to modernize and transform their utility infrastructure in order to improve energy efficiency and reliability. 

For developed economies, the traditional way power has been generated is based on a central generation model with one-way power and information flow from large, often distant generating stations, via transmission and distribution lines to end consumers.   Most of these generation systems contain an aging infrastructure with some equipment dating back 60 years.  This traditional infrastructure lacks sufficient technology and communications at the distribution and end-use level that would enable grid automation & monitoring capabilities.   The model has been a push model, meaning that there is little to no automated information coming back to the central sites from those that use the power.  So if the user suddenly has no power, the only way the utility company knows about it is if they get a call from the users.  Furthermore, the user has very little information available to help them understand how much power they are using, when they are using it, and what they are using it for.

The Smart Grid (also called Intelligent Utility Network) technology is an important emerging trend within the Energy and Utility Industry.  As consumers, we are increasingly aware that the way we consume and save energy can be improved.  Within the energy and utility industry, energy efficiency is also on the minds of the industry leaders.  And our governments are all interested in finding new sources of energy.   By embedding technology into the electrical distribution network, a Smart Grid can transform the way power is distributed and used.  Intelligence throughout the grid can dramatically reduce outages and faults, improve responsiveness, handle current and future demand, increase efficiency and manage costs.

The following video from IEEE will provide some additional introduction into the concept of the Smart Grid.

Produced by IEEE and ScienCentral, Inc.

A Smart Grid can present many opportunities for consumers, businesses, and utilities to benefit from the efficient distribution of energy and availability of intelligent equipment and devices.  For governments, it offers significant opportunities to wisely manage a country’s fuel resources by potentially reducing the need for additional generation sources, better integrating renewable energy sources into the grid’s operations, reducing outages and cascading problems, and enabling users of power to better manage their energy consumption.

The Smart Grid technology will enable energy customers to

  • manage electricity consumption to meet specific household/business goals such as cost, availability, and environmental impact
  • seek energy providers, information, and technologies that help them meet their goals
  • do business with utility companies who communicate a set of energy-related values consistent with their own
  • seek convenient and more personalized ways to interact with their utility to negotiate customized solutions to allow them to meet their needs
  • act on their own wants and needs where regulatory representation does not provide results satisfying these specific needs, primarily through execution of alternative solutions (e.g., self-generation)

So what exactly are the characteristics of a Smart Grid?  The US Department of Energy has characterized a smart grid as having the following attributes:

  • Self-healing from power disturbance events
  • Enabling active participation by consumers in demand response
  • Operating resiliently against physical and cyber attack
  • Providing power quality for 21st century needs
  • Accommodating all generation and storage options
  • Enabling new products, services, and markets
  • Optimizing assets and operating efficiently

The consumer of power from a future Smart Grid will see many differences as a result of adding intelligence into the network.   Some examples are:

  • Smart electricity meters, water meters, and gas meters that collect real-time data on utility usage.
  • Distributed generation, such as solar panels and other micro generation.  These new generators could be located at the home, in the neighborhood, or in the local community.
  • Dedicated energy display units and smart thermostats that provide the user with feedback on energy usage in real-time.
  • Smart appliances with connectivity to the intelligent utility network via the in home meters and display units.
  • Plug-in vehicles as a both source and consumer of energy.  The vehicles, when plugged in would provide information on energy usage.
  • Linked connection to the in-home network and home PCs for further analysis of all the information collected.

The Smart Grid transformation is much more than installation of new technology in a piece-part fashion.  The call for the transformation to a Smart Grid impacts every part of the utility infrastructure including generation, distribution, and usage.  It will be a disruptive change, but a change that will provide huge rewards for the future.  For the utility industry itself, changes needs to happen in four key areas:

  1. Strategy.  We need a  fundamental rethink of business strategy and industry business models across the board.
  2. Collaboration.  Utility providers will need to develop a much closer collaboration with customers, regulators, financers, researchers, technology and service vendors, and other stakeholders than ever before.
  3. People.  The change will be very disruptive to utility companies.  They will need a renewed focus on staff, their roles, competencies, compensation, performance and structure.
  4. Process.  Utility providers will need to re-architect business processes and applications.

There is much work to be done to transform old utility infrastructures to a Smart Grid system.  The transformation will not happen overnight, but could happen over a series of decades.  When complete, countries that transform their utilities infrastructure to an Intelligent Utility Network will have a modern network of sensor-based interactive technologies that will give utilities and consumers unprecedented control over managing energy use, improving energy grid operations, and significantly reducing energy costs. 

There is a ton of information available on Smart Grids.  Here are a few example resources for you to explore….

For other “Primers” here on HorizonWatching, check out http://horizonwatching.typepad.com/horizonwatching/primer/

IDC: Asia Pacific (excluding Japan) Top Ten 2010 Predictions

In 2010, it will be the organization that is able to transform itself to effectively partner with complimentary industries, enable its sales force to sell across multiple business units, and finally create flexible pricing and delivery models that will come out on top.”  – Simon Piff, director, Enterprise Infrastructure, IDC Asia/Pacific.

IDC IDC has published their list of 2010 predictions for the Asia Pacific region excluding Japan.  In publishing the list, IDC says that two themes will dominate events in the IT and telecommunications markets in 2010:  recovery and transformation.   In 2010 IDC says we should expect modest growth to return to IT and telecommunications spending.  While IDC does not anticipate spending levels to return to levels that we saw before the economic crisis , opportunities do exist.

IDC points out that economic crisis we have seen over the last year has resulted in a shift by businesses to a more customer-centric decision-making process when determining new corporate initiatives.  With that has been an emphasis on customer-driven analytics, Web 2.0 and other social media components. 

With that as background, here are IDC’s 2010 top 10 predictions for the AP marketplace (excluding Japan).

  1. The Maturing Cloud Will Need Five 9 Service-Level Agreements and Enterprise-Grade Cloud Services
  2. Business Analytics Will Emerge as a Key Technology Area
  3. Enterprise Use of Social Media Will Increase
  4. Converged Fabric and Evolving Datacenter Will be Centerpieces of Transformation
  5. Evolutions of SaaS to Kaas: It Will be all About Business Process Transformation
  6. Smartphones in Emerging Markets Will Rise
  7. Converged Hardware Will Herald the Dawn of the Enterprise Alliance
  8. Chargeback 3.0 Will Receive Renewed Interest from the CFO
  9. Intelligent X Will Emerge: Building a Smarter and More Measurable World
  10. Machine To Machine Interaction Will Get More Traction

The full report Asia/Pacific (Excluding Japan) 2010 Top 10 Predictions   http://www.idc.com/research/viewtoc.jsp?containerId=AP381114S

Fortune: 4 Tech Trends To Watch

Fortune Magazine recently published an article, 4 tech trends to watch by Michael V. Copeland, a senior writer.  The premise for the article is to help investors find companies to invest in by advising them to find the companies best positioned to execute on massive shifts in the way consumers and businesses use technology.

With that piece of advice in hand, the article provides a discussion on four key technology trends that we should monitor.

  1. On-demand software.  Software as a service = software delivered over the internet = the wave of the future.
  2. The rise of the smartphone.   Smartphones are replacing traditional handsets.  Those companies controlling the smartphone ecosystem will have a huge advantage.
  3. Data, data, everywhere.  The companies that can capture, store, manage, and make sense of the growing volume of data are going to be sitting pretty in the coming decade
  4. Electricity gets smart.  Our electric grid needs an overhaul if it is to become smarter.

Check out the full article for more discussion and analysis of companies to watch http://money.cnn.com/2009/12/04/technology/tech_stocks.fortune/index.htm

Joint IBM and Forrester Research Webinar: The Emergence of the Smarter Home

I heard through the grapevine about an upcoming webinar this week on the topic of Smart Home and thought I’d pass on the news to you.

image The idea of embedded intelligence in the home is certainly not new, but the cost of chips and special sensors keep coming down.  And as broadband networks are almost commonplace, The promise of the smart home is now coming to reality.  Smart devices connecting to services in the network enable a large range of new applications that can make our lives easier, safer, more economical, and healthier.  From increased entertainment choices to medical monitoring, remote security monitoring and management and energy management, these new services can enrich our lives.

There’s also an emerging market for service providers who can gain valuable intelligence and efficiencies by aggregating data in the network.  The most promising approach uses cloud technology in the network to provide the intelligence for the smart home.

The webinar features speakers from both IBM and Forrester Research and should provide a series of informative presentations and a lively round table discussion addressing technology trends, consumer demand, and the revenue opportunities for new services that enable the smarter home.

Topics to be covered during the webinar include:

  • How connectivity, intelligent appliances, smart TV, medical devices, enhanced security, etc. are coming together to revolutionize the home
  • About the growth opportunities not only for electronics manufacturers, but also for the media & entertainment, telecommunications, and energy & utility industries.
  • How the barriers to expansion will fall!

Featured Speakers:

  • Bruce A. Anderson, General Manager, Global Electronics Industry, IBM Corporation
  • Charles Golvin, Principal Analyst, Forrester Research, Inc.
  • Scott Burnett, Strategy & Business Development Director of IBM’s Digital Convergence Group

Details

  • When:  October 15, 2008   9:00 am – 10:30 am EDT
  • Target Audience:    Electronics Industry C-Level and LOB Senior Executives
  • How to register:   Everyone must register to participate in the webcast. Click here to register for the webcast!

Enjoy!

Shifts in Cleantech Financing

This blog brings significant updates to my previous two blogs on Cleantech showing (1) that after a strong 2008, 1Q09 Cleantech investments have dropped and (2) the important role of Cleantech in the stimulus plans.


  1. The Cleantech Group released 1Q09 VC investments in Cleantech which show a 45% drop compared to the previous quarter and a 48% drop compared to 1Q08.  The average round size dropped from  $20M in 3Q08 to $12.3M in 1Q09.  The report underlines that “Cleantech financing is moving into a new phase characterized by diversified funding sources as global recession and liquidity issues impact venture investors.  Venture funds continue to invest significant sums, albeit at a slower pace and scale”.  Utilities and corporations are increasingly playing a leadership role in developing the sector. 
  2. Meanwhile governments globally are allocating historic amounts of capital to clean technology through stimulus packages.  I should have added to my blog last week that the report “Towards a Green recovery” estimates that $400M  of  $2.6T spent in economic stimulus by G20 are earmarked for clean tech such as renewable energy, improved grids and cleaner cars. In the US, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Bill places Cleantech as a key driver of economic stabilization and job growth.  The measures (Over 10% of the total spending) target doubling renewable energy generating capacity (wind, solar, and geothermal).  Provisions also target efficiency, expanded electricity grids including advances metering, energy management SW and usage monitoring sensors.

The credit squeeze has challenged sectors such as wind and solar, stalling new and expansion projects.   The industry is still looking for clarity on how a new Treasury grant program will work.  Financing of projects slated to go forward is still taking extra time to get done.  The stimulus has generated more activity if not yet money for the renewable s sector.