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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July 29, 2011

Managing Market Expectactions

A question recently came to mind that I thought might inspire commentary. What do you expect from smart grid efforts? Simple question, but when posed to a variety of different groups can have a dearth of different answers.


windmills.pngIn 2010, according to Smartgrid.gov (the US government's website for tracking smart grid spending), the US spent $8.17B on smart grid projects. A little more than half of those funds were supplied by the U.S. government through ARRA funds. Given the size of this expense, it is important to understand expectations of the public-at-large.


Did you expect to see plug-in electrics? Did you expect to see distributed generation? Were you expecting to plug in your electric car at a bank of electric charging stations and zip off after a year of bolstered spending on smart grid projects?


I really hope not, because according to smartgrid.gov, the majority of the money spent on smart grid efforts in 2010 was spent on AMI. And in my opinion this is a good thing. I hate to call AMI the enabler of smart grid, but what the heck, AMI is thought of as the enabler of most end consumer benefits expected from smart grid. The smart meter allows for a digital endpoint, which relays consumption on a near real-time basis. In the end, all portions of transmission and distribution will need an overlying sensor network to enable load balancing, distribution automation, and efficiently deliver electricity.


The end goal of banks of plug-in stations and seamlessly integrated renewable assets may be an end product of smart grid spending, but initial development efforts and spending is well placed on AMI. It really is a "learn to walk before you run" scenario for the utilities industry at large. The first result of smart grid must be improved reliability, followed by balanced capacity and finally the incorporation of new assets from electric vehicles to disassociated renewables.
Do you think smart grid funds were well spent on AMI?

July 27, 2011

Instrumentation & Control - Enablers for self healing smart grids - Part 1

In my previous blog I mentioned key questions electrical utility need to answer before they start implementing (planning) smart grid projects. These questions are important and relevant due to the fact that smarter grid need fundamental changes to all aspects of the power industry viz.,Business Process, Operational Process, Physical Infrastructure (Grid, IT and Communications), IT & OT Systems, Customer Service & Interfaces.

According to DOE's definition of Smart Grid (ref: www.gefa.org/Modules/ShowDocument.aspx?documentid=925) "A smart grid is the electricity delivery system (from point of generation to point of consumption) integrated with communications and information technology for enhanced grid operations, customer services, and environmental benefits". Time and again I have blogged on the topic that the focus has so far been on the "customer services, and environmental benefits" side of this definition and that distribution automation and grid upgradation aspects have been left behind during initial phases of smart grid implemenation.

In my opinion the fundamental change that need to be paid attention to now is the point number 2 & 3 of the following excerpt from DOE's smart grid vision:

The United Stated Department of Energy proposes that four types of technology will drive the advancement of smart grids:

1. Integrated, automated communication between components of the electric grid.
2. Sensing and measurement technologies.
3. Automated controls for distribution and repairs.
4. Improved management dashboards and decision support software.

Sensing, measurement, protection and control technologies and their integration with OT and IT systems is what will make our electrical grids self healing. In the NIRVANA state of self-healing Smart Grid the Utility's control center should be able to sense and repair the faults even before the AMI can communicate the last gasp to OMS. Here I don't mean to say in self healing grids there won't be any outages but the impact of an outage will be minimized to smalles possible set of customers. For this intelligent sensors and protection devices with the advanced protection schemes will have to be deployed.

In my future blogs I will continue to elaborate on use of Instrumentation & Control for the self-healing grids using specific use cases that we are developing as part of our Smart Integrator solution (a Smart Grid Integration and Analytics platform ref: http://www.infosys.com/offerings/industries/utilities/industry-offerings/Pages/smart-integrator.aspx). Till then keep exploring Infosys vision on Smart Grids and reading insights from my fellow bloggers on Smart Utilities.

July 8, 2011

Privacy Concerns!

So this time it's the smart grid privacy concerns!

Privacy concerns are valid and affect each one of us knowingly or unintentionally. Internet search engines can track minute details of a user behavior and smart phone applications can track real-time physical location of their subscribers. Social networking sites allow us to post our personal details to share with a few friends but it can profile the users based on their web-behavior and this information is in great demand for targeted advertising!

Customers have a choice; either completely isolate themselves from sharing personal information or take the risk and trust the service providers that the personal information may not be compromised. On the other hand service providers shoulder the huge responsibility of not betraying this trust. With Smart Grid, individual behavior can be monitored 24x7 based on the flow of energy into a home. This time the exposure is higher and also camouflaged, compared to voluntary data sharing on internet or owning a smart mobile device.

"Privacy by Design" or "Embedded Privacy" are good ideas but require tremendous political will to be fully implemented. There is a need to create legal frameworks around collection, application and destruction of personal information, and with data being received at the rate of exabytes per hour, how this framework can be applied will remain a challenge in coming days.

However as smart grid rolls out from AMR to Plug-in Hybrids, privacy concerns need to be addressed while building data governance frameworks at individual projects as well as enterprise wide level.

 Also, there could be several technology solutions for handling data privacy at each stage; one of them happens to be the Infosys MaskIT. Static or Dynamic data can be masked at source (meters, appliances, plug-in cars, billing engines) and be read only by specific applications necessary for business decision making for a Utility.

This solution has been successfully implemented for Banking/Finance industry and can be leveraged for the smart utilities.