Insights from our Editorial Team
The smart grid and other developments mean a major change for distribution operators
New developments such as utility smart grid investments, the advent of electric vehicles, more distributed generation, the aging of utility infrastructures, more demand response and higher capacity of intermittent generation on the grid means a major change in the way distribution operators manage the system.
Utility tests, pilots AMI products prior to deployment
Consumers Energy is taking what it calls "measured steps" to evaluate, test and do pilot programs on the gamut of AMI (advanced metering infrastructure) technology prior to deployment, while its representatives are involved in national standards and interoperability efforts. That puts Consumers Energy into an enviable position to deploy smart meters when it's ready to select the vendors and products that suit its needs and the nature of its service territory. That makes Consumers Energy a worthy subject of attention, as its methodology could well lead to efficient use of capital, rational grid modernization, regulatory approval and customer satisfaction.
But smart grid pilots include new methods
Utilities in the United States largely remain in the paper stage of managing their assets, while other countries are adopting condition-based monitoring and maintenance methods, providing efficiencies in capital allocation as well as operations and maintenance. But with smart grid pilot projects and implementations, domestic utilities are beginning to lay the foundation for a more sophisticated view of their grids' capacity and condition. The recession's silver lining is that capital and O&M efficiencies are top of mind, according to an Accenture executive focused on asset management.
Aligning data in real-time, graphic dashboards aid decision making
Utilities have pioneered the integration of GIS with their business systems but the sheer amount of data has slowed progress, one GIS executive argues. Fully translating data into actionable intelligence via graphical dashboards will be "transformationa," the executive said.
An (understandable) lack of urgency, for now
The adoption of electric vehcles will not come swiftly in great enough numbers to challenge utilities' capacity. But over time, significant levels of adoption will lead some utilities to make major investments in IT infrastructure for system-to-system communications, according to a new report. That spending is expected to grow ten-fold in five years. Utilities should prepare to determine when a critical mass of EV adoption is reached, so they can make savvy IT investments at that time.
The U.S. Department of Energy discusses the issue with stakeholders
The U.S. Department of Energy recently released two reports, consolidating feedback from RFIs and public meetings, with regard to utility communications needs and data access and privacy. While some of the key findings are familiar, the second of the two reports delves more deeply into state responsibilities than we've seen of late.
Canadian Thanksgiving celebration provides opportunity for reflection
It's never too early, or too late, to reflect upon a busy year. Intelligent Utility magazine editor Kate Rowland took an early Canadian Thanksgiving Day to look back on what was a busy, exciting and somewhat tumultuous period for utilities across the country.
Twenty years ago, if a utility did something innovative, you assumed it was a large investor-owned utility. Over the last decade this assumption has faded, as co-operative and municipal utilities implement innovative solutions to address business challenges, and have delivered impressive results from their investments. Our industry might be making a similar paradigm shift with regards to regulatory concerns. Christopher Perdue spoke recently to David Johnson, chief information officer at EPB, about how his utility is dealing with innovation and regulatory concerns.
Is adoption inevitable or are EVs a niche play?
Economists, professors and pundits debate the fate of the electric vehicle in an online forum. Will limited range and anxiety over it limit adoption? Will the hurdle be battery costs? How will the cost of gasoline affect EV adoption? Or are EVs an idea whose time has finally come? Stimulate your thinking by checking the reasoning of a group of self-appointed experts.
Reno-based utility will measure transformer loads
NV Energy will offer its smart-metered customers a chance to opt-in for time-of-use rates, with one opportunity to opt-out within12 months if they face higher bills, in part to encourage nighttime charging of electric vehicles. Travis Johnson, manager of electric transportation and emerging technologies at the Reno, Nevada-based utility, describes NV Energy's approach.