27. September 2010 05:01
Utilities are implementing AMI and Smart Grid initiatives with the goals that include streamlining their operations, reducing costs, and improving service. These new systems and technologies are going to generate a torrent of data - the real challenge is going to be transforming these data into usable intelligence.
One key area that does not get much coverage is how can utilities work to ensure that they are also collecting the correct types and amounts of data to help them get the most bang for their bucks. For instance, if the AMI system can now collect 5-second data on consumption, is the utility's internal systems set up to handle this flood of data when the old system was used to handling one reading per month? The more important question is: does the utility need to collect 5-second data just because the system is capable of doing it? What exactly is the right amount of data is determined by what is the end piece of actionable intelligence the utility is interested in.
Consider the case of portfolio of DSM programs a given utility is running: what information does it need and how much of it does it need to track and manage its EE, conservation, DR and renewable programs in its DSM portfolio? In this case,
- the utility has M&V needs,
- program tracking and reporting needs to know how well its programs are working and the savings contributions from each of its programs across its market segments and service territories,
- tracking and program management needs to know how each of its implementation contractors are performing to meet their respective energy and demand savings goals,
- if the utility is subject to portfolio energy credits reporting, it would have information needs pertaining to current and future years' savings projections,
- overall program costs and savings tracking needs to provide inputs to its program planning and cost-effectiveness models.
The challenge is for the concerned team within each utility to look at their specific needs [in the case of DSM portfolio, the program staff, IT and finance dept staff would need to work together to formulate the data needs] in terms of the actionable intelligence they need and ensure they look to collect only the required amount of data to achieve those goals. Otherwise, they run the risk of drowning in data and end up not getting the benefits they were hoping to get from their investments.
Energy Biz has an interesting article on how utilities can add flexibility here
9. September 2010 08:19
Came across an interesting article in Intelligent Utility today [click here for full article] - according to this article, Koch brothers [David and Charles Koch of Koch Industries which is a multi-billion dollar energy conglomerate] are spending millions of dollars promoting groups that call for abolishing DoE and US EPA. It's their right to promote whatever view point they hold dear - but the issue here is that their funding of various "grass roots groups" is opaque and so, unless one has the resources and patience to dig through various filings and other information, most people will not realize that these groups are actually a front for Koch.
7. September 2010 05:38
With the Labor Day weekend behind us, summer vacation season is officially over and we turn to things that need to be done between now and end of the year. This year the big topic in the utility industry arena has been Smart Grid in its various flavors and incarnations. Almost anything seems to attract the Smart Grid tag [including this blog post!]. It's one thing to put a tag on, but the real challenge is how is any given utility going to manage the flood of data that will come gushing in once that utility implements a communicating meter roll-out across its service area. As it is, most utilities are silo'd with different departments within the utility having differing priorities, data formats, systems and networks, etc. Now, when one overlays the complexity and potentially enormous volume of real-time data from thousands of meters, that is a truly daunting problem. While the utility revenue department has to sort out the accuracy of readings, dealing with customer complaints about what they perceive as suddenly higher bills, and so on, the DSM group has to figure out what and how much of these new data they can use for their tracking, reporting and M&V purposes.
We plan to focus attention to this issue over the coming months and will be looking for developments, news items and case histories related to this area.
2. September 2010 08:37
Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) has announced that it has started field test an end-use device that will permit appliances in the home to participate in utility demand response (DR) programs. The issue EPRI is trying to address is two-fold:
- There is no standard device currently available that a customer could buy from their local electronics or appliance store that will make their appliances or systems [such as HVAC] "DR-Ready" - i.e., enable their appliances/systems to communicate with the utility
and respond to DR system signals.
- There is no common standard design that has been accepted by the utility industry on a nationwide basis, similar to the standards for Wi-Fi or USB devices.
One key to this capability is the need to define a single interface for all major appliances or devices. Work is under way to define such a connection, allowing appliances to communicate via any chosen medium and protocol. Another prerequisite for DR-ready appliances is a functional specification of what constitutes “DR-ready” for specific types of appliances, enabling manufacturers to develop qualifying products. Researchers at EPRI’s Knoxville laboratories have demonstrated the transformation of existing consumer electronics devices into DR-ready resources by adding software that allows consumers to set controls and manage energy consumption according to prevailing grid or market conditions.
Having worked for several years with utilities, appliance manufacturers, controls vendors and various industry groups, I believe for such a product to gain market traction, it's critical that the device specifications is not tied to any particular communications technology [such as powerline, Zigbee, etc.] and to any particular applications language. The industry as a whole need to agree to a generalized interface specifications so that it will work with any of the communications technology with a few clearly defined applications functions [such as on/off, increase/decrease, status, etc.] that any device in the market can be expected to implement. That would enable manufacturers to develop interface modules that will work across the board while assuring the consumer that any device they purchase will provide a guaranteed minimum functionality.
1. September 2010 08:04
According to a recent announcement from DOE, the United States used significantly more wind power and less fossil fuels in 2009 than in 2008. The report was released on August 23 by DOE's Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL). There also was a decline in natural gas use and increases in solar energy, hydropower, and geothermal power, LLNL's most recent energy flow charts showed. The estimated U.S. energy use in 2009 equaled 94.6 quadrillion Btu ("quads"), down from 99.2 quads in 2008. (A Btu or British thermal unit is a unit of measurement for energy and is equivalent to about 1.055 kilojoules). The average American household uses about 95 million Btu per year. Wind power increased to .70 quads of primary energy in 2009 compared to .51 quads in 2008, most of which was tied to tied directly to electricity generation, helping decrease coal-fired electricity production. See the LLNL press release and annotated report (PDF 853 KB).
This is a 5% decrease in energy usage in one year - which is roughly equal to the energy used by 50 million households in a year. At this rate, US could lead the way in GHG reduction for the rest of the world. Given the fact that we have just begun with the efficiency, DSM and renewables programs, utilities could make a major impact on over reduction in energy consumption as they ramp up their programs in the coming years.