Monday, January 30, 2012

2012 is off to a quick start!

Two significant conferences have already occurred: the IEEE PES Innovative Smart Grid Technologies Conference in Washington, D.C. on January 16-20 and the DistribuTECH Conference & Exhibition in San Antonio on January 24-26.

The Innovative Smart Grid Technologies (ISGT) conference is sponsored by IEEE and the presentations in the paper sessions are generally more technically oriented than other smart grid seminars and conferences. This conference was first held two years ago at the NIST offices in Washington, D.C., it moved to Anaheim last year, and returned to Washington, D.C. this year. I had a couple of observations. The first observation is that many of the conference presenters were international, from academia, or both. I think that there are a couple of reasons for this trend. Smart grid is gaining global acceptance and countries such as China, Korea, and Japan are becoming more active in the technical societies and also in the standards development organizations. The other reason is that universities participate in the technical societies to share research results.

The other observation is that the smart grid focus has clearly moved beyond smart meters and advanced metering infrastructure (AMI). There was only one AMI session (90 minutes) during the entire conference and one of the papers in that session looked at synchronizing SCADA and smart meter operation for “advanced smart distribution grid applications.” The tutorial topics provided a better gauge of the current smart grid focus – tutorial sessions addressed power system operation and trading with smart grids, smart substations, smart grid solutions for advanced distribution automation and distribution management systems (DMS), cyber security, and the role of microgrids in smart grids. The paper and panel sessions also included renewables, synchrophasors, analytics, and distributed energy resources such as storage, electric vehicles, and demand response.

I just returned from DistribuTECH. This event is the largest smart grid related conference in North America and the one event to attend if you can only choose one. Although I am also an IEEE member, I am somewhat biased towards DistribuTECH since I am a member of the Advisory Committee. I do not have the final attendance numbers, but registrations were over 8000 on the first day and attendance by the end of the event was expected to exceed the 2011 record attendance of 8400. The best news for vendors is that there appeared to be an increased number of utility customers who were evaluating smart grid solutions with plans to move forward in 2012.

In addition to the massive exhibition, DistribuTECH also has a conference program. The committee fills the 14 different tracks with presentation and panel sessions that emphasize utility technology deployments and smart grid projects. I moderated a session in the Smart Grid Operations Solutions track titled Smart Grid Architecture: Considerations for the Future. The three presentations in my track addressed: the system architecture needed to manage transactions that span the smart grid landscape from energy markets to distributed resources, the smart grid architecture needed to address coupling of smart grid technologies (one example being the interrelationship between demand response and volt/var control), and optimization of distribution grid operations to improve efficiency and reliability.

The new emerging smart grid market segment that the media and analysts were discussing was analytics. One market analyst is forecasting 55% compound annual growth in this segment for 2011 to 2016. The driver behind this growth is the amount of data that smart grid systems such as AMI and DMS generate. This segment is typically broken down into consumer analytics and grid optimization analytics. Consumer analytics will enable utilities to better understand and respond to customer preferences and behavior and grid optimization analytics will drive improved planning and operation of the grid. One component of grid optimization analytics is improved asset health management that Randy Schrieber and I have discussed in previous postings.

I also want to congratulate Oklahoma Gas & Electric. This year, the editors at Electric Light & Power named OG&E as the magazine’s Utility of the Year for 2011. OG&E’s customer satisfaction ratings, successful AMI deployment, and demand response programs were key factors in the selection. ABB and Ventyx are contributing to the success of OG&E’s smart grid strategy with a DMS implementation that will improve both reliability and efficiency when fully integrated into OG&E’s operations. One application, volt/var control and optimization will help OG&E attain its goal of not adding new, incremental fossil-fired generation until at least 2020.

So hang on, 2012 looks like it will be an exciting year!

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