Resourceful Network Solutions Enable the Active Grid

Emma Ritch
Emma Ritch, ABB

The industrial sector is becoming one of the first proving grounds for the many benefits promised by the Internet of Things, Services and People. New intelligent electronic devices are enabling vast improvements in utility efficiency, security and reliability as part of automated metering infrastructure (AMI) and distribution automation (DA) projects. The core foundation enabling these applications is a robust, high performing and versatile wireless communication network that supports utilities in accessing and analyzing data in real time.

Secure and reliable two-way communications are required to make this intelligence productive in the active grid. Only a decade after the initial wave of AMI deployments, utilities are already demanding lower latencies and higher capacities from their networks to support the multitude of new device types that are becoming available. Reliability of communication is especially important as utilities deploy mission-critical applications, necessitating a flexible approach that assigns the right communications technology for the particular location and application, instead of a one-size-fits-all approach. ABB understands that while it’s tempting to drive a standard or deployment around one wireless technology, a more resourceful, cost-effective and reliable approach is to make use of what a utility has in place, and to fill in the gaps with emerging network technology. To that end, combining wireless technologies in an optimal fashion results in a single highly intuitive network that concurrently powers all critical applications.

Many utilities implement single-purpose communications in their distribution systems with one network serving AMI, another serving DA and yet another for mobile work force automation. Consolidating to one multi-technology network offers many benefits: better return on investment, lower operating costs as a result of standardizing on fewer hardware and software products, the ability to manage the network centrally to increase reliability, and the ability to enforce consistent security and quality of service. No two utility deployments are alike, which makes it even more critical that utilities identify trusted partners who will provide flexible solutions and ongoing support to meet their unique needs.

Just ask our customers, Avista Utilities and DTE Energy. Our wireless technology in combination with Itron’s mesh radios are successfully deployed in the cities of Pullman and Spokane, Wash. The networks extend real-time communications to DA devices, providing centralized monitoring and control to empower Avista to take quick action to avoid and minimize power outages, as well as to determine which DA devices require maintenance or replacement. An integrated ABB Wireless/Itron system is also helping DTE Energy with ABB routers linking hundreds of distribution grid devices that need reliable and low-latency connections to operate properly.

Utilities have an opportunity to unlock the massive business value that the integration of IT and OT teams affords. ABB’s longevity as a proven partner for utilities has given us extensive expertise in helping our customers transform and secure their assets, with a comprehensive suite of infrastructure services tailored to your utility’s goals and requirements. As your utility transforms the smart grid into the active grid, find a proven solution with the flexibility to meet your needs. Improving operational efficiency, reliability, and security are achievable goals when the right technology foundation is in place.

Resourcefulness For Today and Tomorrow

Peter Jansen
Peter Jansen, Capgemini

Today’s world needs a sustainable energy future. Capgemini, like Itron, understands that being more resourceful means making the most of what we have. At Capgemini, we are committed to providing the right services to implement the right solutions (for today and tomorrow), which will help us better manage the world's energy and water.

So why the need to be resourceful? Much of our energy comes from fossil fuels, like petroleum and coal, which provide electricity and gas to power our growing energy needs. Needless to say, these resources are non-renewable, which means that we will eventually run out. Another reason is the health and well-being of the planet. Using fossil fuels, such as coal, to produce energy contributes to the carbon footprint. Capgemini is committed to resourceful solutions. Internally, we have formed a North American Sustainably Board, designed to build an energy efficiency plan to reduce our own carbon footprint through a reduction in business travel, optimizing our real estate, and energy and waste reductions.

For our Utility clients, we have several Smart Grid/Smart Meter/Smart Home solutions and services that are focused on successfully assisting our clients in achieving a culture of conservation with their customers – be it electricity; gas; and/or water.

These services and solutions help reduce waste (such as detecting wasted water due to leaks), support greater customer choice and control (such as supporting advanced rate tariffs like TOU, PTR, etc.) and support new uses of energy (such as micro grids and renewables). These solutions not only reduce consumption, but also help to spread consumption to off-peak periods. Studies show that just by becoming aware of their homes’ daily electricity usage, customers can lower their electric bills up to 10 percent; and that customer demand response programs can reduce U.S. peak demand by 20 percent.

Capgemini has been successfully providing these services to utilities around the globe for more than fifteen years.

Related to this, we have also provided services to help utilities implement the Green Button initiative. The Green Button initiative is an industry-led effort to provide utility customers with easy and secure access to their energy usage information in a consumer-friendly format. With their own data in hand, consumers can take advantage of a growing array of online services to help them manage energy use and save on their bills. For example, programming their home energy management devices, sizing and financing rooftop solar panels and helping a contractor to verify their home energy savings more cost-effectively. Capgemini was recently awarded a three year contract to support a major Canadian utility in implementing its Green Button initiative and Energy Data Platform (EDP), which are designed to provide customers with easy, secure access to energy usage information as well as applications to manage efficiency.

At Capgemini, we believe that a sustainable energy future is obtainable. Our Smart Grid/Smart Meter/Smart Home solutions facilitate the co-ordination of the capabilities of generators, grid operators, end-users and electricity market stakeholders to allow them to operate all parts of the system as efficiently as possible, minimizing costs and environmental impacts while maximizing system reliability, resilience and stability.

The Age of Resourcefulness. Doing More While Consuming Less.

DistribuTECH 2015 kicked off this morning and during the opening session, we heard from Itron President and CEO Philip Mezey about waste and resourcefulness within the utility industry. As the world’s population continues to grow, increasing resource usage, it is important for everyone – particularly utilities – to more efficiently and effectively manage the use of energy and water resources.

Utilities are facing an aging infrastructure and workforce, and a fixed asset base, which makes managing energy and water critical to ongoing economic prosperity, resource conservation and social wellbeing. In the past few years, there have been great strides made toward efficiency and the resourceful use of energy and water. However, there is still work to be done.

A large amount of resources are lost within the utility industry every year due to waste. In the U.S. alone, we lose $24 billion per year from electricity transmission and distribution losses, $13.1 billion due to water leaks and over an 11 year period, $20 billion from natural gas that was unaccounted for and never used. This is a huge amount of loss that totals more than $37 billion per year.

If we could reduce this waste by just 1 percent, there would be an estimated savings of $370 million, while a 10 percent reduction would save approximately $3.7 billion.

Several steps can be taken to achieve this critical reduction in waste. These include:

  • Revitalizing and investing in infrastructure improvements
  • Investing in technology and solutions to further reduce waste and increase resourcefulness
  • Educating the public and future employees on consumption and conservation and, through this, attract a younger, tech-savvy workforce
  • Begin the transformation from utilities that deliver resources to companies that create jobs and improve lives
  • Lay the groundwork for a future-proof business model through the integration of renewables

As utilities work to incorporate these steps, the industry and economy can benefit greatly. However, no utility or company can achieve these broad results on their own. As we move forward, industry collaboration and cooperation will become increasingly important –sharing technology and information to benefit the masses. The utility industry needs engaged leadership that is willing to act and make these decisions to reduce waste and create a more resourceful world.

The Solar Lease Deal

Working in the energy industry puts a big target on your chest when it comes to solar leasing deals. In the span of weeks, I have had several friends approach me asking whether they should sign up for a solar panel lease deal from a local company.

With this new assignment, I sharpened my pencil (really a spreadsheet), collected their last 12 months of bills, and calculated their electric costs with and without the solar deal. It’s important to understand that each person is different as shown by their historic energy consumption. For my friends, the cost savings from leased solar ranged between $20 and $200 per year under current rate conditions. The trade-off for the immediate savings (and no upfront costs) is the 20-year contract agreeing to purchase the solar power output at a fixed rate escalating with inflation.

Solar House-01In the few cases I reviewed, the savings weren’t great. Apparently my friends don’t use much air conditioning in our mild coastal climate. But, if you double their energy consumption or add an electric vehicle, the savings would more than double due to the quirkiness of an increasing tiered rate structure.

For the analytical mind, calculating savings is a straight-forward exercise in math once you understand the electric rate structure. But, what captured my attention was why my friends with such low energy consumption were being targeted by solar lease companies? Are the solar lease companies making such large margins on their sales that they profit by saving customers $20 to $200 per year?

In the following weeks, I was also contacted by a company offering me a solar lease program. Like my friends, my analysis showed low savings (I also don’t have air conditioning). Then it hit me. We are being offered the solar deals because our zip codes imply that we are credit worthy enough to sign the 20-year lease.

There are many factors that we should consider when forecasting the penetration of rooftop solar. We should examine payback periods, local rates, and distribution issues. We should also add one more factor into the equation, we should consider which of our customers have a big target on their chests called credit worthiness.

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