News - October 2011

Climate change and ICT - 30 Oct 

 
Participants at the Broadband Leadership Summit in Geneve in October 2011encouraged the ITU to continue promoting the key role of ICTs in efforts to mitigate and adapt to climate change, and urged ITU to push this agenda at the upcoming United Nations climate change negotiations (COP17) in Durban, South Africa. They praised ITU’s current work in the field, referencing in particular the work of ITU’s Telecommunication Standardization Sector on methodologies to assess the environmental impact of ICT.
 
Regarding climate change adaption, and informed by recent events in Japan, CTOs identified two crucial areas for further work: a disaster relief system allowing individuals to notify a victim’s friends, family or employer; and a disaster relief guidance mechanism to help victims reach safety. ITU is already actively engaged in work in this field, including emergency communication systems to provide early warning of impending disasters. 
 

Ministerial roundtable on ICTs and climate change - 30 Oct 

 
ICTs and climate change were the subject of  the second Ministerial Roundtable at ITU Telecom World 2011 which brought together Ministers from countries across the world including from Bangladesh, H.E. Dr Mohamed Abdel Kader Mohamed Salem, Minister of Communications and Information Technology (MCIT) Egypt, H.E. Mrs Jasna Matic, State Secretary for Digital Agenda, Ministry of Culture, Media and Information Society Serbia, H.E. Mr Ruhakana Rugunda, Minister of Information and Communications Technology, Uganda, H.E. Mr Radhakrishna Padayachie, Minister of Communications South Africa, and the Hon. Eng.  Philip  Okundi,  Chairman, Communications Commission of Kenya  and H.E. Mr Salifou Lao Bouché, Minister of Communication and New  Technologies & Information, Niger to share thoughts on issues and strategies relating to the role of ICTs in climate change.
 
Introducing the session, ITU Deputy Secretary General, Mr Houlin Zhao highlighted the crucial role of ICTs in reducing, monitoring, mediating and responding to the effects of climate change, noting that “Business as usual is no longer an option if we want to ensure the right approach for our planet,” and that ICTs need to be part of the solution.
 
Greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) appear to be driving climate change, hence the need to urgently reduce CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions. A clear message from today’s session was that here, developing countries must face the consequences of their actions. Developing countries, noted  Minister Rugunda, and H.E Mrs Jasna Matic, did not contribute to the cause of greenhouse gas emission, but are being forced to face up to its unwanted consequences. Minister Rugunda called for international action which would put pressure the developing world who are “squarely responsible for the highest proportion of greenhouse gas emissions, where developing countries face the floods, hunger and starvation,” to come and help and support developing countries deal with these issues.
 
Recycling and disposing of e-waste is a major concern particularly given the rapid increase in ICT uptake worldwide. Don’t use developing countries as a dumping ground for obsolete technologies noted a number of Ministers, including from Serbia, Bangladesh and Uganda, with Uganda warning of the “danger” that they face as a potential dumping ground for old and obsolete technology, and calling for increased international cooperation and assistance on this issue. Minister Matic of Serbia noted that although the choice not always easy , developed countries must avoid “offloading their dirty and bad technologies onto developing countries.”
 
Some other core issues faced by developing countries were highlighted during the session, with Bangladesh, Niger and Uganda outlining the importance of technologies such as solar power in providing connectivity to their populations, and drawing on their own experience of utilizing the technology.
 
Ministers also cited the need for increased international cooperation and collaboration, thanking the ITU for the important role it was playing in helping facilitate this. 
 

Smart Home Cloud Services - 27 Oct

 

A new report from On World Inc titled ‘Smart Home Sensor Networks’ indicates that within the next five years, affordable Smart Home systems will reach tens of millions of homes worldwide, enabled by an expanding IP infrastructure, smart mobile devices, cloud services, and sensor network technologies.

Smart Home sensor network chipset shipments will approach 100 million worldwide in 2015, enabling nearly $6 billion in cloud services for energy and home service providers. Adoption of Smart Home sensor networking is accelerating in several channels and business models are evolving rapidly.

Some of the findings included:

  • Cloud services for smart home applications will increase by a 103% compound annual growth rate between 2010 and 2015
  • Smart home sensor network systems based on IPv6 are a growing trend and, in addition to the migration to ZigBee Smart Energy 2.0, there are several service providers that currently offer IPv6 based Smart Home systems.
  • A survey with over 500 consumers found that 4 out of 5 are interested or very interested in applications such as security, safety, lighting and energy management.
  • 29% are willing to spend $10 or more per month for a Smart Home cloud service. 
 

Cellular Smart Electricity Meter Market - 27 Oct

 

A new report from IMS Research titled ‘The World Market for Smart Electricity Meters – 2011’ indicates that advanced electricity meters with integrated cellular communication modules are forecast to increase from 2.6 million shipments in 2010 to 9.5 million shipments annually in 2016.

The US and UK are forecast to experience the largest volumes of cellular shipments through 2016. In the US, telecoms have reduced the cost of data plans for meters significantly to approximately $1 or less per meter, per month. Utilities that want to reduce up front capital expenditures and reduce operating expenses are realizing the benefits of using public cellular providers. Operating costs are lowered by reducing or eliminating the networking and maintenance staff needed to maintain a metering network.

In the US, a larger percentage of the opportunity for new smart meter installations will likely come from smaller utilities that have spread-out populations in diverse geographies.

As telecoms providers lower the total cost of ownership for a cellular-based smart metering solution, not only will small utilities in the US switch to a cellular option but larger utilities in the US and throughout the world may begin to seek ways to collaborate with local telecoms to make cellular a more viable option.

The UK is forecast to have the largest cumulative volume of cellular smart meters in the world from 2010 to 2016. Cellular solutions are key in the UK due to the general structure of the utilities and grid operators, whereas a meter change-out may happen piecewise making cellular M2M devices the likely solution. Some suppliers are planning to ship cellular meters in 2012 and as telecoms in the UK begin to see the business opportunity in the US mature, telecoms providers in the region are likely to follow and make pricing per meter more competitive. 

 

Worldwide smart electricity meters to reach 602.7 million units in 2016 - 27 Oct 

 

New research from Berg Insight indicates that the worldwide installed base of smart electricity meters will grow at a compound annual growth rate of 26.6% between 2010 and 2016 to reach 602.7 million.

During the next five years, penetration rates for smart metering technology are projected to increase from around 15–25% to around 50% in Europe and North America and over 75% in Asia-Pacific.

By 2020, penetration rates are expected to reach 100% in most developed countries with substantial rollouts in Latin America, India and the Middle East.

Smart grid technologies will play a major role in this goal by improving the efficiency at all levels of the electricity supply chain from generation to transmission, distribution and consumption. Smart meters are the gateways that connect consumers to the smart grid and enable them to interact with other players in the ecosystem.

Europe and North America are rated as the most advanced adopters of smart metering technology. A majority of the countries in Western Europe have passed legislation that requires nationwide rollouts before the end of this decade. Italy and Sweden already have fully operational systems.

All EU member states that have not already performed a cost-benefit analysis of smart metering are required to do so before September 2012. In the US, states including California and Texas have mandated the introduction of smart meters or given their approval for rollouts proposed by utilities. The federal government has granted nearly US$ 5 billion in funding for smart grid projects that frequently involve smart meter rollouts.

China and other countries in East Asia are in the early stages of adoption but have very aggressive installation plans. The State Grid Corporation of China is currently deploying 50–60 million advanced electricity meters per year as preparation for the construction of a nationwide smart metering network within five years.

South Korea has an ambitious plan for a nationwide smart grid network that is being implemented by the national utility KEPCO and in Japan the government is looking to smart meters as a part of the solution to the new challenges facing the country’s electricity industry. 

 

Standards Australia on Smart Grids - 25 Oct 

 

Industry leaders in Smart Grid technology will today convene as part of a forum hosted by Standards Australia hosted a forum  coinciding with the 75th General Meeting of the International Electro technical Commission (IEC) in Melbourne.

They issued the following statement.

“Smart Grids use technology to improve the economic and energy efficiency of the electricity networks and improve sustainability outcomes,” said Colin Blair, Chief Executive, Standards Australia.

Mr Blair said the development of Smart Grid standards will play a critical role in providing the framework for a more energy efficient and sustainable future for cities and centres.

“Energy consumers, such as businesses and households, are increasingly interested in ways to measure and moderate their energy usage, which will only result in more demand for sustainable energy grids,” Mr Blair said.

For more info: 
www.standards.org.au

 

Using the social Internet as a tool to reward consumers to use solar powered ICT devices  - 24 Oct

 

Tech companies so far have stumbled when it comes to getting people to be mindful of their energy use and conserve. But a new German startup ‘Changers’  thinks it’s come up with the right incentives to attract the do-gooder crowd: sell mobile solar chargers and build a social network around earning energy credits and online shopping.

Changers, founded in 2010, hopes to build a community and marketplace of eco-conscious users and retailers through shopping and competition.

Here’s the proposition: you buy a solar charging kit that, when connected to your computer, will allow you to upload data about the energy generated by the charger and stored in a battery. That data goes to your profile page on Changers’ website, where the energy, measured in watt-hours, will be converted into credits that you can use to buy actual stuff from online shops.

The solar kit charges at a rate of 4 watts per hour and can hold 16 watts in its battery, which can supply power for two iPhones. So you can charge up the battery during the day and then transfer those electrons to your cell phones, tablets or other gadgets at night.

Solar social network

Through your page on Changers, you can track you solar energy generation, the carbon offset created by the solar electricity (2 watt hours of solar electricity equal to 1 gram of carbon emission), and see how you stack up against friends, neighbors or those in other countries. The energy-to-money conversion rate could be different, depending on the retailers, said Hans Raffauf, head of communications at Changers.

The site’s first retailer is Holstee, which sells clothes, bags, coffee makers, sunglasses, ear buds, and other products made from recycled materials. To shop on Holstee, you will have to accumulate a minimum of 100 watts, which gives you a $10 voucher.

While the solar charging kit will cost you $149, joining the Changers community is free. Changers, which has raised an undisclosed seed investment of “a couple of million dollars” from German solar company Centrotherm Photovoltaics, wants to charge retailers in the future, Raffauf said. That won’t happen until Changers builds up a user base large enough to attract more retailers.

 

Costs of electric vehicles in the US - 20 Oct

There is a growing interest in electric vehicles (EVs), with many vehicles now being offered and planned for future release. During difficult economic times, the vehicle’s cost will motivate mass adoption of electric cars.

There are a number of ways to determine EV costs. This includes long-term maintenance, resale value, and insurance rates. A higher purchase price has to be balanced against lower operating costs. What can be calculated with good accuracy is the cost in electricity per month.

The electrical cost of an EV is determined by the cost of local electricity rates, how often the vehicle is driven and what type of vehicle is purchased.

For more information see:
Electric Vehicle: Cost of Electricity

 

Smart meter penetration in North America - 20 Oct

 

A new report from Berg Insight shows that the installed base of smart electricity meters in North America will grow at a compound annual growth rate of 22.5% between 2010 and 2016 to reach 87.4 million at the end of 2016.

Over the next five years, smart meter penetration among residential electricity customers in the US and Canada is projected to increase from around 20% in mid-2011 to more than 50% by the end of 2016. It is anticipated that the region will have close to 100% penetration by 2020.

The US federal government and many states have successfully stimulated the demand for smart metering solutions through a combination of financial incentives and regulatory requirements. Full-scale rollouts are now underway at nearly half of the largest investor-owned utilities, as well as among hundreds of municipals and electric cooperatives.

California and Texas have passed legislation that require smart meters for all electricity customers and regulators in other major states such as Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan and Georgia have given their approval for smart meter plans proposed by utilities.

In Canada, Ontario completed the first major rollout of smart meters in early 2011 and new projects now underway in British Columbia and Québec will increase penetration for smart metering in the country to around two-thirds of all households. Wireless mesh networking technologies dominate the smart meter communication marketplace in North America. Most of the leading vendors provide solutions that use the license-free 900 MHz frequency band. Alternative technologies such as cellular networks and power-line carrier are however starting to gain more traction. TNMP, an electric utility with 230,000 customers in Texas, will deploy the first large-scale smart metering system in the US using point-to-point GPRS communication until 2016. 

 

Asia Pacific Investment in Smart Transmission and Distribution Technologies - 20 Oct

 

A new report from Pike Research shows that utilities and governments across the Asia Pacific region are seeking to lower the ratio of electricity consumption to economic output, reduce overall greenhouse gas emissions via demand management, and encourage energy efficiency by investing heavily in smart grid technologies.

Transitioning to a smart grid is seen as a key goal of national energy policy by governments in China, Japan, South Korea, India, and other APAC nations. While market attention has focused on advanced metering infrastructure (AMI), transmission upgrades and distribution automation (DA) systems actually represent the largest opportunities within APAC.

Cumulative revenue from transmission upgrades will total $93 billion between 2010 and 2017. Cumulative revenue from smart transmission and distribution (T&D) systems will reach $123.3 billion, representing 72% of all APAC smart grid investment over that period. AMI revenue in Asia Pacific will total $25.6 billion from 2010 to 2017.

Market potential for the smart grid in APAC is directly related to China’s huge investments in installing the essential components of power infrastructure over the next decade. China’s smart grid commitments are closely related to the country’s urgent power imbalance issues. China is attempting to solve these problems via the full completion of transmission capabilities.

In China, most investment priorities will target T&D upgrades, especially in ultra-high voltage and ultra-high voltage direct current construction. Japan will take a wider and systematic approach to creating world-leading green social systems by leveraging its existing leadership in IT and high-end technologies, while South Korea plans to form an advanced smart grid structure by leveraging its technology leadership in the IT and communications space.

 

Smart technology - 19 Oct

 

A new report from Ernst & Young shows that the UK Government’s desire for smart meters to be installed in all consumer houses by 2020 means that energy companies need to reinvent their relationship with their customer if they are to deflect competition from potential new entrants such as retailers, technology companies and banks.

Smart technology, means that energy companies will need to provide innovative services which enable consumers to manage their energy consumption. However, companies such as mobile phone operators, and leading consumer technology companies are in a better position to seize the opportunity more effectively than most energy companies.

Power and utility companies’ market position was exposed by the consumer research:

  • In 13 countries, consumers categorised their relationship with their energy suppliers at best distant and at worst negative
  • Consumers were critical of energy companies for operating solely to provide energy and bill customers for the service
  • Excited by the prospects that smart meters provide them but question the motives of energy firms’ involvement
  • Failed to understand why power and utility firms would want to provide them with tools to reduce their energy bills

Executives at 75 power and utility companies across the globe were also interviewed. They believe that they have a healthy relationship with their customers, and that customers will be happy to receive services from them whilst they can purchase cheap energy.

Despite this threat from new market entrants, there are still opportunities for power and utility companies to expand their business and maximise opportunities from the explosion in smart technologies, with power and utility companies needing to focus on developing a two way relationship with their customers.

Smart technology gives consumers unprecedented power to manage and control their energy use. In time, this will fundamentally shift the balance of utility-customer relations. 

 

The rebound effect and ICT - why free energy may reduce CO2 emissions - 17 Oct

 

By Bill St Arnaud

I have long argued that energy efficiency, as a primary objective, is not sufficient to slow down, never mind reduce CO2 emissions. The pressing challenge facing this planet is not energy consumption but CO2 emissions. It is not the amount of energy we consume, but the type of energy that really matters. If we can adapt our society away from our current fossil fuel fiesta to use only renewable power like solar and wind, then global warming could be significantly slowed down. Our planet, in a few hours receives more solar energy than we consume from all traditional fossil fuel based sources in a year. The biggest problem with renewable energy is its unpredictably and variability.

Part of the solution is on the supply side which is to develop continent wide grids and energy storage systems. But an equally important of the solution is on the demand side and that is to develop technologies and applications that can work with this type of unpredictable energy. ICT can play a critical role in developing such solutions. This is the grand challenge for the ICT industry. Rather than focusing on energy efficiency as the primary objective, ICT companies and researchers need to focus on how to develop services and applications, for all sectors of society, that work only with renewable energy resources. Many of the technology implementations are very similar for energy efficiency, but the overall architecture outcome is a lot different.

One of the big challenges of a primary objectives of energy efficiency, is something called the rebound effect, also known as the Jevons paradox or Khazzoom-Brookes postulate. In a recent workshop held at University of Concordia in Montreal, Stephane Lepochat gave an excellent talk on the implications of the rebound effect on ICT, as well as the 4 different types of rebound effect. Given the many other examples of rebound effect in other sectors of society there is no reason to expect that ICT will suffer from the same phenomena. In another talk by Chris Phillips dramatically showed the challenges we face if we try to solve the environmental impact of ICT through energy efficiency as the primary vehicle.

Charles Despins of PROMPT inc gave an excellent talk on the socio-economic opportunities on a carbon focused Green ICT strategy, as opposed to energy efficiency – not only to reduce carbon impact of ICT, but to help all aspects of society directly reduce its CO2 impact. Quebec, through PROMPT, is probably the only jurisdiction in the world that is funding research along these lines. While the rest of the world is still focused on energy efficiency, Quebec researchers and industry is taking a world leadership role in addressing the real problem facing this planet. Companies and researches in Quebec are doing innovative research and development at using ICT to use renewable energy only. Zero carbon clouds and networks, pathway charging systems using renewable energy for vehicles and public transportation, etc are some examples.

This approach undertaken by Quebec through PROMPT Inc may end up the secret weapon against global warming. As noted, in the article below, solar panels could soon produce the cheapest form of electricity. As the cost of solar panels continue to drop simple extrapolations indicate that electricity from solar panels, could soon be “too cheap to meter”. While many may remember this phrase from the hubristic days of nuclear energy, it is not unreasonable to expect this will soon  be the reality for electricity from solar panels.

Jurisdictions that focus on building technology socio-economic solutions using such renewable energy could be the big winners, because not will it virtually eliminate CO2 emissions, the power itself will almost be free.

There is every expectation that energy consumption will continue to grow, especially as the developing world adopts western lifestyles.

For this reason, I think it is simply illogical to expect that energy efficiency to be the primary objective in reducing CO2. A far more effective objective is to find ways to use renewable energy only.

Chris Phillips, University of London, UK

Dynamic Energy Management for Wired Communication Networks
http://users.encs.concordia.ca/~al_shaik/EJC_2011/Slides/Phillips_EJC_2011.pdf

Stéphane Lepochat, EVEA, Nantes, France

Taking into Account the Rebound Effect in LCA: Necessities and Difficulties
http://users.encs.concordia.ca/~al_shaik/EJC_2011/Slides/Lepochat_EJC_2011.pdf

Charles Despins, Prompt-Quebec and ETS
Socio-economic opportunities for a carbon-focused Green ICT strategy
http://users.encs.concordia.ca/~al_shaik/EJC_2011/Slides/Despins_EJC_2011.pdf

C. Despins et al., Leveraging Green Communications for Carbon Emission
Reductions: Techniques, Testbeds and Emerging Carbon Footprint Standards,
IEEE Communications Magazine, vol. 49, no. 8, August 2011, pp.101-109

Four different types of rebound effect

  • Direct Rebound Effect (substitution effect, pure price effect) : Greater efficiency may lead to a lower price of the service (or product or technology) which in turn may induce an increased use of this cheaper service.
  • Indirect Rebound Effect (income effect, secondary effect) : If prices of other commodities and income are constant, the reduction of costs for one commodity due to a particular efficiency increase implies that consumers have more money to spend on other goods.
  • General Equilibrium Effect (economy-wide effects) : The direct and indirect rebound effect lead to changed prices and consumption throughout the economy, which may increase or decrease production in distant sectors and changes the production functions.
  • Transformational Effect : This includes changes in consumer preferences, alteration of social institutions, and the rearrangement of the organization of production.

Solar PV rapidly becoming the cheapest option to generate electricity http://www.grist.org/solar-power/2011-10-11-solar-pv-rapidly-becoming-cheapest-option-generate-electricity 

For a long time, the holy grail of solar photovoltaics (PV) has been "grid parity," the point at which it would be as cheap to generate one's own solar electricity as it is to buy electricity from the grid.
And that is indeed an important market milestone, being achieved now in many places around the world. But recently it has become clear that PV is set to go beyond grid parity and become the cheapestway to generate electricity.

Whenever I say this I encounter incredulity, even vehement opposition, from friends and foes of renewable energy alike.

Apparently, knowledge of the rapid developments of the last few years has not been widely disseminated. But it's happening, right under our noses! It is essential to understand this so that we can leverage it to rapidly switch to a global energy system fully based on renewable energy.

At a very large scale, the cost of manufacturing anything drops to just above the cost of its base materials. As scale goes up, per-unit costs come down. This is known as a "learning curve" -- the price per unit of capacity comes down by x percent for every doubling of cumulatively installed capacity. For solar PV modules, the learning rate has been exceptionally high, averaging 22 percent for the past two decades. The cost of the "balance of system," i.e., all other components needed, follows this trend line closely. So this is what we see happening now in PV:

Costs vary per country, and fossil fuels mostly don't get the right costs allocated for their CO2 emissions, but let's take two recent studies for the U.S. here. The Brattle Group published theConnecticut Integrated Resource Plan  in 2008. They found levelized cost per kWh for natural gas-fired power plants to be $0.076 to $0.092, and for coal, $0.086, both without carbon capture and storage. And in 2009, MIT issued its Update on the Cost of Nuclear Power , in which they found levelized cost per kWh for nuclear's competitors of $0.062
(coal) and $0.065 (natural gas), without any charge for CO2 emissions.

The cost of wind energy is already close to competitive with gas and coal. The recent Global Status Report  by REN21 states its kWh-cost for suitable locations as $0.05 to $0.09, for an average of $0.07. Wind power cost is still decreasing, due to learning effects, but at a much lower rate than the cost of PV.

It is highly unlikely that fossil fuels will get away without any charge for CO2 emissions in the long run. In a growing number of countries, such as the 27 countries of the European Union and Australia, this market distortion has already (mostly) come to an end.

But let's assume that the cost of solar PV electricity needs to drop to below $0.06 per kWh to live up to the claim that it's the cheapest source of electricity. In sunny regions, we will need to halve the cost of PV power again to make that happen. Three doublings of cumulative capacity will do, since, according to PV's rapid learning curve, every doubling of capacity leads to a cost reduction of 22 percent. After three doublings the cost will be multiplied by 0.78 * (0.78 * 0.78 = 0.47).

Cumulative installed PV capacity globally was 40 gigawatts (GW) at the end of last year. Three doublings mean this has to grow by a factor of eight, to 320 GW, to achieve the necessary halving of cost.

From 2005 to 2010, PV capacity installed annually grew by an average of 49 percent per year. Even if this slows down to 25 percent per year in the near future, we will reach 320 GW in 2018 -- that's only seven years from now! 

 

Merger and acquisition deals totalled $2.4 billion  - 14 Oct

 

According to a new report from Lux Research, merger and acquisition (M&A) deals in the first six months of 2011 have totaled twice those made during 2010.

M&A transactions totaled $2.42 billion in all three sectors during the first half of 2011, more than double the $1.20 billion exchanged during all of 2010. Two deals comprised most activity in each year: ABB’s acquisition of Ventyx in 2010 ($1 billion), and Toshiba’s acquisition of Landis+Gyr in 2011 ($2.3 billion). The electric vehicle, smart grid, and energy storage sectors saw a total of thirteen transactions in 2010, and another twelve during the first half of 2011.

Among the report’s key findings:

  • Seed funding and Series A deals have disappeared for smart grid, energy storage, and EV start-ups as venture capitalists (VCs) focus their efforts on maturing companies in their portfolio rather than seeking new opportunities. 

  • Companies that received no outside funding accounted for 44% of all M&A transactions, while companies that completed a Series C round or later account for only 28% of acquisitions. Overall, acquirers in the smart-grid space are favoring low-value acquisitions of small companies with a technology or product that supplements their existing product portfolio and has some proven commercial adoption. 

  • The automotive and fuel cell segments combined represented 66% of all VC spending in 2011. Automotive continues to thrive thanks to six vehicle start-ups that have claimed $664 million since the beginning of 2010. Meanwhile, fuel cell companies raised $371 million over 39 transactions since the start of 2010.

 

Electric vehicle realities versus consumer expectations - 12 Oct

 

Electric vehicles (EVs) have been around since the earliest days of the automotive industry. In recent years, however, as the price of oil has risen steadily and concerns about the environment have increased, interest in EVs has intensified.

This interest is coming from a number of sources, including government and industry. Policymakers, automotive executives, and electric utility industry executives are each, in their own way, trying to understand when and where consumers are most likely to adopt EVs and exactly how many may be on the road next year, five years from now, or 10 years or longer from now. As they work together, and apart, in this complicated dance toward the next generation of personal mobility, with profound implications for all parties, it still comes down to the consumer. It is the consumer, looking for a less-expensive, greener transportation alternative with all the performance qualities of a traditional car, whose interest is the most intriguing and perhaps the most complicated. It is the consumer, after all, who will tell manufacturers how close they are to creating a vehicle that has a chance to achieve mass popularity in the marketplace.

With that in mind, Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited’s (DTTL) Global Manufacturing Industry group undertook an extensive global study designed to gauge consumer attitudes toward pure EVs. While the broad category of EVs available today include a variety of hybrid vehicles using some form of both electric motor propulsion and internal combustion engines, this study focused exclusively on the pure electric vehicle. In this way, the study serves to anchor the far end of today’s automotive product offerings and create clarity for all those either participating in the study or interested in the findings. The study was based on a survey of over 13,000 individuals in 17 countries and, in addition to inquiring into willingness and intent to purchase, asked respondents a variety of questions related to the car’s major selling points, including price, range, and charge time.

The survey, conducted between November 2010 and May 2011, revealed that the majority of consumers are either willing to consider the purchase of an electric vehicle or see themselves as potential first movers when it comes to electric vehicle adoption. Potential first movers were those respondents who indicated they were very interested in purchasing an electric vehicle and were likely to purchase or lease a new vehicle of some kind
within the next 12 months.

However, deeper questioning revealed a significant gap between consumer expectations of electric vehicle capabilities and what an electric vehicle can deliver today. Consumers generally felt that EVs should be able to go farther, on less charge time, for a cheaper price than automakers are currently able to offer.

This gap—and where it manifests itself most dramatically and where it might be most easily closed—will be of special interest to automakers operating in the electric vehicle space.

This report looks closely at the results of the survey, with special attention to geographical differences and similarities in consumers’ responses. It also provides critical context by contrasting consumer perceptions and expectations with the current realities of electric vehicle technology. 

Smart Grid projects in Europe: lessons learned and current developments - 11 Oct

 

In the study “Smart Grid projects in Europe: lessons learned and current developments”, the Joint Research Centre, the European Commission’s in-house science service, has presented a review of 219 smart grid projects Europe-wide. By providing a complete catalogue of the projects to date and by using project data and results to support analysis, the report looks into several aspects of the smart grids landscape to describe the state of the art of their implementation, the emerging hallmarks of the new electricity system and some foreseeable developments. This analysis contributed to the drafting of the Commission Communication “Smart Grids: from innovation to deployment”, adopted in April 2011.

This work is intended to be the first of a series of snapshots that the European Commission will periodically prepare on the development status of smart grids in Europe to offer a basis for discussion among smart grid stakeholders and promote the sharing of knowledge, experiences and best practices. 

 

Transforming utilities customer information and billing systems - 11 Oct

 

According to a recent report from Pike Research, most utilities will be faced with upgrading or replacing their Customer Information Systems (CIS) and billing systems in the next 10 years. More robust information systems that can handle data feeds from smart meters and demand response (DR) programs are a step toward the combination of smart grid technology with new energy generation technologies and with new regulatory frameworks. The CIS transformation represents a total market opportunity of more than $4 billion, The research forecasts that next-generation CIS solutions will cover 89 million customer meters by 2015.

Utilities are faced with moving forward on CIS transformation at the accelerated pace of smart grid implementations but are slowed by heavy systems and software that, in many cases, are more than two decades old.

In the United States, this large CIS and billing upgrade will lead to heightened competition as the leading system in use today, Customer/1, is phased out of the competitive landscape. Many smart grid utilities will have no choice but to fully replace Customer/1, leaving a vacuum that established enterprise software vendors, such as SAP and Oracle, will move aggressively to fill. By 2015, Pike Research forecasts, SAP and Oracle will control 43% of the market, with telecom service providers accounting for another 17%. 

 

IEEE Guide for Design, Operation, and Integration of Distributed Resource Island Systems with Electric Power Systems - 11 Oct

 
Alternative approaches and good practices for the design, operation, and integration of distributed resource (DR) island systems with electric power systems (EPS) are provided in this IEEE standards report (US$75). This includes the ability to separate from and reconnect to part of the area EPS while providing power to the islanded EPSs. This guide includes the DRs, interconnection systems, and participating EPSs. 
 

Prepaid Energy and Low Income Issues - 04 Sep

 

The Distributed Energy Financial Group (DEFG)  has released a white paper entitled, "Low Income Consumer Issues and Voluntary Prepaid Energy Offerings:  Perspectives from Three Industry Thought Leaders."

Prepaid energy offerings are the first consumer-facing application of the smart grid with significant market potential. DEFG thus launched the 2011 Utility Prepay Working Group to further explore leading regulatory and consumer opportunities and challenges presented by prepaid energy. Regulatory issues include disconnect and reconnect policies, weather moratoriums, forms of account notification, cost and benefit allocation, fees and rates.

While these issues need to be addressed to implement a prepaid offering for all customers, they present greater concerns when dealing with low-income customers. Consumer advocates argue that prepaid energy invites low-income customers to make tough choices, potentially opting to disconnect electric service to keep money available for other necessities such as food, clothes and gasoline. Yet, existing prepaid customers provide positive feedback, primarily the convenience, flexibility and control that goes with paying any amount at any time. Consumers find that prepayment allows them to budget in a manner most compatible with their lifestyle and income (e.g., make payments weekly or every other week). 

There is indeed a tension between the possibilities enabled by new technologies and consumer protections. 

Two key questions are – how can a balance be struck between allowing consumers to exercise their preferences and ensuring that adequate consumer protections are in place? And, how can regulatory rules and practices, including for low income consumers, be revised or updated to allow for innovation and new offerings such as prepaid energy or other new services enabled by smart grid yet maintain the intent of the original regulatory rationale?

 

G3-PLC Alliance driving smart grid communications standards - 03 Oct

 

Twelve major players in the smart grid industry are announcing a new global partnership at the Metering Europe Conference in Amsterdam support the deployment of the new power line communications protocol called G3-PLC. The partners in the association are led by major players in the smart grid sector, including Enexis, ERDF, Maxim Integrated Products, STMicroelectronics, Texas Instruments, Cisco, Itron, Landis & Gyr, Nexans, Sagemcom and Trialog.

The new Power Line Communications (PLC) technology transmits digital information through electrical power lines using OFDM (orthogonal frequency division multiplexing) and is widely acknowledged to be the most reliable, secure and cost effective mode of communication for the smart grid today. This new technology, defined to solve the challenges of tomorrow’s smart grid, has been adopted as the basis for several major standards such as IEEE, ITU and IEC/CENELEC which offer interoperability with the current G3-PLC specification available today. G3-PLC products are currently available from major semiconductor and equipment manufacturers and it is being field tested by several major utilities and organizations worldwide, including ERDF in France.

The alliance was formed to support G3-PLC’s rapid adoption by utilities worldwide in various smart grid applications such as automatic meter management, EV charging, home energy management, lighting control and grid monitoring.

Just as with other ubiquitous communications standards, WiFi and Bluetooth for example, this Alliance has been created in order to drive widespread adoption of G3-PLC by enabling rapid development up and down the entire electric power ecosystem. Chief among the Alliance’s goals are: 

  • Promote G3-PLC in Internationally recognized standards organizations (IEEE, ITU, IEC, ISO, etc.)
  • Promote G3-PLC technical features, performance, and overall value
  • Organize certification tests and programs
  • Organize and operate the industry users group to maintain the G3-PLC specification and to insure interoperability
  • Support utilities in the deployment of the new G3-PLC communications protocol in their respective countries
  • Promote G3-PLC in other applications such as home/building energy management; home automation; vehicle-to-grid and vehicle-to-charging station communications; lighting control and management; factory automation, and optimization of smart grid performance

G3-PLC is a global open power line communication protocol specifically designed for smart grid communications. It enables smart meter management, control and monitoring of the electrical distribution network, energy management, EV charging, lighting control as well as other smart grid applications.

The G3-PLC is designed to operate in 10-490 kHz frequency bands and it is compliant with CENELEC, FCC and ARIB regulatory bodies. It was designed to meet the following requirements:

  • Robustness: communications profile suited to operate in severe noisy environments such as low–voltage lines, long-range communications in medium-voltage lines, and especially to enable communication across MV-LV transformers
  • Performance: Bi-directional digital communication with data rate up to 300 Kbps
  • Simplicity: simple to implement, install (Plug-and-Play), operate and maintain
  • Security: it offers a safe environment using AES-128 cryptography engine
  • Scalability: Supports IPv6 for new internet-based energy management systems and applications
  • Cost: ability to cross MV-LV transformers reduces the number of data concentrators. High speed communication over very long distances reduces the number of repeaters required

For more information: www.G3-PLC.com 

 

Moneybulb: Data analytics and the future of the smart grid - 03 Oct

 

With thx to KEMA

For decades, companies and organizations as diverse as automobile makers and baseball teams have assessed how their products and players perform in different environments. They figure out what works and what doesn’t work and use this information to make improvements. With the creation of the smart grid, the opportunity to analyse data and immediately deliver results that could benefit consumers is becoming available to all participants in the electric utility value chain. This is the field of data analytics. In this field, each entity has a different role to play and different information and knowledge to contribute.

The consumer’s smart electric meter is the primary tool that gathers data. It tracks the time electricity is consumed. Various sensors along different points on the electric grid effectively perform the same function. They track when and what flowed past these points, and in some cases, how fast. This information is compiled in a large database. Here, the data analytics engine takes over to gain a deeper understanding about how and where power is consumed, and how it can be generated more efficiently to minimize costs for everyone.

Electricity is an unusual commodity. It has to be generated at almost exactly the same time it is consumed. Therefore, its data has to be gathered and analysed very frequently to be useful - in some cases, several times each second. The smart grid’s full operational benefits and reliability can be realized when the rate of the flow of information matches the flow of electricity.

As utilities evolve and create their own data analytics infrastructure, they will gain access to a valuable information pathway, which will expand their operational knowledge. This targeted, contextually rich knowledge offers utilities a strong competitive advantage: the ability to create new programs that meet the needs of their consumers more precisely.

Data analytics and optimizing operations and maintenance

Some techniques, such as regression analysis, can predict the likelihood that an individual grid component will fail by monitoring a known set of conditions that a component has experienced and comparing them to a baseline. Operations & maintenance (O&M) personnel can conduct a cost-benefit analysis of this scenario to assess whether it is better to replace or repair the component. They can also identify the optimum time to carry out the work, because they will have a complete picture of all the components on their network.

When an engineer visits the component, he/she can further update the data set, report about the repair/replacement experience, and identify whether or not the work was necessary. Documenting how data errors are resolved can enable future repair iterations to be performed with greater efficiency.

To some extent, electric utilities have been doing work like this for the past 50 years. The smart grid brings a paradigm shift through its capability to collect data. Real-time data analysis takes the conversation about a component’s failure to a whole new place. By creating a contextual mash-up between the utility’s geographical information system and detailed component metrics, the utility now has the ability to see how a situation develops earlier than before and in much greater detail. As a result, the utility can take immediate action to support its customers. This minimizes the length of outages and automatically restores power to consumers in seconds, rather than in hours when done manually.

The new data analytic infrastructure

Once the core components of a data analytics infrastructure have been created, a new service-oriented architecture will start to appear in the form of a self-organizing network (SON). This will be especially relevant to electric grid participants whose location is not fixed, such as electric vehicles.

SON is a fundamental concept in the world of mobile communications1. In these networks, all devices are equal and operate with a plug-and-play protocol. So, if devices are connected to the network, they get to participate, and if not, they have to wait until another identical device offers to connect with them. The self organizing element kicks in through several features:

  • Self-configuring: Once a device is connected to a network, it automatically downloads any software upgrades from the central server.
  • Self-optimizing: The network organizes and optimizes itself to manage different customer loads as they evolve.
  • Self-healing: When a device drops off the network or fails, the remaining network devices flag it as a faulty element and reorganize themselves to continue providing the same service until that device comes back online.
  • Self-securing2: When a single device is attacked, be it maliciously or accidentally, the devices around it can observe, log, and support or alienate the attacked device.

These concepts, designed for cell towers and cell phones, may appear abstract. However, when they are applied to electric vehicles, which are the ultimate mobile storage devices3, the possibilities to predict and manage electric demand, improve road safety, manage traffic congestion, and more, become almost limitless. Now, apply the same concepts to mobile devices that require more granular storage like laptops or to appliances with embedded technologies such as refrigerators, which do not currently employ storage but have potential to do so. For these devices and appliances, the opportunity for data analytics to support demand management and demand transfer multiplies almost exponentially.

All of these opportunities will become available as electric utilities learn more precisely how their customer groups will respond to certain stimuli. Like the Oakland Athletics demonstrated in Moneyball4, the recent movie adaptation of the team’s stunning 2002 season, data analytics can transform the rules of business in every industry. The electric utility industry is no exception. The winners will ultimately be those who use the new rules to build a better game.

Sources:

  1. S. Feng and E. Seidel, "Self-Organizing Networks (SON) in 3GPP Long Term Evolution," Nomor Research GmbH (Munich, Germany: May 20, 2008).
  2. G. R. Ganger and D. F. Nagle, "Better Security via Smarter Devices," HotOS-VIII (Carnegie Mellon University, May 2001).
  3. W. Kempton and S. Letendre, "Electric Vehicles as a New Source of Power for Electric Utilities," Transportation Research 2(3) (1997): 157-175.
  4. M. Lewis, "Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game" (New York: W.W. Norton, 2003).