The Infosys Utilities Blog seeks to discuss and answer the industry’s burning Smart Grid questions through the commentary of the industry’s leading Smart Grid and Sustainability experts. This blogging community offers a rich source of fresh new ideas on the planning, design and implementation of solutions for the utility industry of tomorrow.

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June 28, 2011

The 21st Century Grid Policy Framework

Recently I found one interesting report in FERC website. It is being issued in Jun 11 itself by Obama government and is titled "POLICY FRAMEWORK FOR THE 21st CENTURY GRID: Enabling Our Secure Energy Future"

 

Considering Century Grid as a process, report objectives are defined as, not to prescribe particular technologies, products etc but to enable the United States to maximize the available opportunities and address the challenges while transiting the nation to a smarter grid.

 

In this report your will find policy recommendations around:

 

·         Energy Independence and Security

·         Smart grid modernization

·        Advantage of innovation, modern information & communications technology (sensors, smart metering solutions,  smart appliances etc)

·         New capabilities to utilities / customers

·         Job creation & growth in clean energy economy

 

The framework is premised on four pillars and for each, various key actions are defined:

 

1.     Enabling cost-effective smart grid investments

2.     Unlocking the potential for innovation in the electric sector

3.     Empowering consumers and enabling them to make informed decisions, and

4.     Securing the grid.

 

Framework is to enable the United States to be the leader in the 21st Century economy by renewable / clean energy revolution and to meet the national goals such as generating 80% of electricity from clean energy sources by 2035 or putting one million electric vehicles on the road by 2015 etc.

 

This report is full of facts, findings and case studies...I am sure you will find it interesting. You may click link "21st Century Grid" to see the detailed report.

 

June 17, 2011

What do Utilties need to consider during grid modernization (or Smart Grid implementation)?

Smart Grids now are becoming reality of the present world, even though they are at a very early stage. In this blog I am trying to get in to the shoes of Utility strategist and give my point of view on the questions that needs to be answered while strategizing the plans for Smart Grid implementation.

There are several reasons or should I say drivers behind smart grid projects, to list a few:

  • Regulations
  • Availability of Stimulus
  • Peer Pressure from other Utilities
  • Genuine interest in grid and systems upgrades

Not matter what the reason there are several questions every utility is facing today.

Some that come to my mind are as follows:

  • What are the risks and how to minimize the risk with respect to current and future operations? Similarly what are the worthwhile risks?
  • How to keep the current operation intact?
  • How to perform compliance testing and end to end testing of the new systems, applications and products?
  • How will the changes be reverted back to the previous state if something goes wrong (the fact is the grid is operational today with the existing technology, systems and applications)?
  • What's the maturity of the new technology and how will it affect the effectiveness, timeliness and risks of the smart grid implementation?
  • How to keep the cost of implementation in control?
  • There are too many options, how to choose the best option for my utility?
  • What will be training requirements for the utility personnel? What will be the skillset requirement and availability of right resources to manage and operate the new systems?
  • Will it affect my IT budget and how much?
  • What is must have and what's good to have?
  • How to keep customers informed and involved?
  • What should be the short-term, mid-term and long-term priorities?
  • What is the dependency between short-term, mid-term and long-term priorities?


These are Challenging and exciting times ahead for the Electrical Utility Industry and there is a consensus at the high level about smart grid needs, benefits and goals. The requirement is to carefully, weigh the options and plan for the future of the electrical grids and the society.
This is what needs to be well thought during the development of Smart Grid roadmaps and plans.

I leave it up to my fellow readers to think and provide their feedback/comments on what other questions need to be answered before or during a smart grid project is implemented.

June 1, 2011

Smart Grid: What it means to the customers?

Smart Grid is considered as a large program for benefit of utilities as well as for the customers. However majority of the customers are finding it either too heavy to digest or something which will have adverse affect to the rates. Customer's apprehensions such as cost recovery of investment through the new service offerings or health hazards due to smart meter communication technologies etc., are most common.

Customers are most influencing actors for success of Smart Grid journey (this I discussed in my earlier blog). So customers concerns should be handled priority basis.


Utilities all communication channels (web, mail, phone etc) should promote & educate Smart Grid as a process or tool which will enable customers for better energy control & management which will eventually turn to lower energy consumption & cost.


During the Smart Grid pilot & programs, by maximizing the customer participation, utility should prove it on the ground and share the results with the society. Pilot participated customers should be encouraged to share experience with the society.


Call center representatives which traditional customers find most convenient to approach, should be trained enough to address customer concerns effectively rather than answering generic.


These initiatives will improve customer understanding and will address majority of the concerns. Hence customers will be more supportive and enthusiastic for this large complex program even before it is fully deployed.