News - November 2011

Toyota Fun-Vii – the smartphone version of the EV - 30 Nov

Toyota revealed a concept vehicle that heralds a not-too-distant future where people, cars and society are linked. 

The ultimate in personalisation functions offer the ability to alter the content displayed on the interior and exterior of the Fun-Vii with the same ease as downloading an application.  For instance, the whole vehicle body can be used as a display space, with the body colour and display content changeable at will.  This allows the entire vehicle to function as a terminal for displaying messages or other information.

The whole of the vehicle interior also can function as a display space, with the interior freely adjustable to match the mood of the moment.  Content such as navigation information is blended seamlessly into the interior through the use of augmented reality.  Furthermore, the vehicle's "navigation concierge" can provide the passengers with driving information and guidance through a vocal interface.

A network update function makes sure the software versions for the vehicle's drive, control and multimedia system are always up-to-date.

The Fun-Vii is able to link with surrounding vehicles and infrastructure, allowing it to detect other potentially hazardous vehicles—such as vehicles in blind spots—in advance, or to connect with friends who are driving nearby.

Operation of the Fun-Vii is not limited to inside the vehicle itself, with a portion of the vehicle's functions access able remotely via a smartphone or other mobile communication device. 


The shift to electric vehicles - 30 Nov


As issues ranging from environmental concerns to fluctuating oil prices increasingly push consumers toward alternatives to combustion engines, the world seems poised for an electric vehicle (EV) rebirth. Today’s EV, however, is beyond anything nineteenth century drivers could imagine. From intelligent driving to proactive service and remote vehicle access, EVs can offer the safety and convenience today’s consumers crave.

However, hurdles to the adoption of electric vehicles remain, primarily concerns regarding price and range. To further understand these hurdles and gauge consumer and industry attitudes about EVs, we coupled interviews with executives from both leading and emerging automotive companies with a survey of consumers who rely on cars as their primary transportation mode.

Through our survey, we discovered that average consumers seem to appreciate the sustainability benefits of driving an electric vehicle. However, they aren’t particularly interested in paying a higher premium to purchase one. In addition, they have concerns regarding total miles per battery charge – despite the fact that today’s electric cars can typically handle the average driver’s daily needs without needing to recharge.*

A new 
IBM study also revealed another potential roadblock that can certainly be addressed by the industry – the simple fact that many consumers don’t know enough about electric vehicles. Even those who consider themselves knowledgeable have misconceptions. The good news for those interested in driving EV adoption is that there is substantial interest in electric vehicles. In fact, one fifth of drivers are either “very likely” or “likely” to consider purchasing an electric-only vehicle when shopping for a new car.

While consumer education is important, automakers must also rely on innovation to help drive EV adoption. We suggest they tap into the innovative technology inherent in the vehicle itself to enhance the driver’s experience through various connected features. In addition, the industry must be aggressive in developing new business models while forging new partnerships to build the infrastructure necessary for widespread EV adoption.
Download the complete IBM Institute for Business Value study (4.5MB)


Nearly 100,000 Vehicles to be Enabled with Vehicle to Grid Technologies by 2017 - 30 Nov 2011


The batteries used in plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs) will be increasingly utilized by property owners and grid operators to provide a wide variety of energy services.  The power potential of the batteries can be used to reduce the utility costs of a building or, when aggregated with other vehicles or stationary energy storage sources, to provide ancillary services such as frequency regulation.  Vehicle to grid (V2G) technologies, over time, will represent a more and more favourable alternative to investing in new power generation assets.  By 2017, according to a new report from Pike Research, approximately 90,000 light-duty vehicles and an additional 1,500 medium/heavy duty trucks will be enabled with V2G technologies, creating a strong foundation for V2G-based demand response, vehicle to building, frequency regulation, and other ancillary service applications.

“V2G technologies are currently in the early pilot phase, with much work left to do before they will be ready for full commercialization,” says research director John Gartner.  “The earliest adopters will be fleet operators and large consumers of energy where vehicles have established schedules for being plugged in.  As the sector develops, V2G will be utilized for an increasing array of grid support services.”

Gartner adds that the highest demand for V2G, especially in the early years, will be in energy markets that are more open to new technologies and with higher concentrations of intermittent renewable power.  As adoption grows, V2G will compete with traditional generation sources as well as with emerging technologies, such as stationary battery storage, for revenue from ancillary services such as frequency regulation and demand response.

Pike Research’s analysis indicates that investment in V2G by automakers, utilities, and energy aggregators will be strongly influenced by the global and regional penetration of PEVs. Dozens of PEVs must be aggregated in a given area to produce sufficient power capacity to interest grid operators and industry participants are waiting for these vehicles to be in place in ample numbers before developing programs.  The number of vehicles that could participate in V2G will grow from just over 100,000 light duty vehicles in 2011 to more than 5 million in 2017.  But substantial investment in infrastructure and vehicle-based technology will be necessary to enable V2G services on a large scale.


Smart Water Meter Market Update- 30 Nov 


The advanced water metering market, estimated at about 5.5 million global shipments in 2010, and anticipated to be roughly 10 million shipments annually in 2016, continues to increase its product share, particularly in North America. These findings come from IMS Research’s recently published The World Market for Water Meters – 2011.

Global advanced water meter shipments accounted for over $500 million in revenue in 2010, with over 70% of this seen in the North American market. According to Nicole Juarez, the author of the report, “North America already has a high penetration of advanced metering. While one-way meters continue to have higher unit shipments than two-way meters currently, in North America, higher growth is forecast for two-way meters over the next five years. The price of two-way meters are gradually becoming comparable to traditional mobile read meters, and when reviewed against possible labor cost savings; utilities are increasingly realizing that purchasing two-way meters (even ahead of fixed network infrastructure) is currently justifiable. These meters will likely be used initially in a direct or mobile read solution, until sufficient installed base exists within a manageable metering family to upgrade to a fixed network.”

The majority of advanced water meter growth is being driven by North America, with the highest estimated advanced water meter shipments in 2010, accounting for over 55% of this region’s total annual water meter shipments. Specifically, two-way meters are forecast to have significant growth in North America, increasing from a small fraction of the market in 2010, to an anticipated third of the overall market in 2016. This is by far the highest percentage of two-way meters of any region currently, and forecast.

It should be noted, however, that globally, advanced water meter shipments remain a small percentage of total water meter shipments. This is because the largest water meter market, Asia, predominantly consists of basic water meters. Of global water meter unit shipments in 2010, 6% were advanced water meters, estimated to grow to over 8% by 2016.


A framework for the evaluation of smart grids in the UK - 30 Nov


Ofgem has appointed Frontier and EA Technology to develop a framework that will allow smart grid investment opportunities to be evaluated. This report sets out a proposed methodology for developing this framework for consultation. 

Frontier and EA Technologies  aim to help Ofgem and the industry reach a better understanding of:  

  • the drivers of the value of smart grids;
  • the value of the flexibility smart grids may provide under conditions of uncertainty; and
  • the parties in the value chain that will benefit from smart grid solutions.

The analysis will have the following scope:

  • it will focus on the impact of smart grid investments at distribution network level;
  • it will seek to identify  the spread of costs and benefits across the electricity sector,  as well as the net benefits to society as a whole; and 
  • it will take a long-term view and assess the impacts of smart grid investments out to 2050, although our focus will be on drawing out the implications for the near term.

It is recognised that a framework for evaluating the net benefits of smart grid solutions is important if Distribution Network Operators (DNOs) are to justify smart grid investments, when the benefits of such investments are less certain than for more conventional solutions.

This report sets out our proposed methodology for developing the framework for consultation. Following this consultation, we will formalise the evaluation framework in a simple and transparent model. This model will be available in the public domain and will allow users to assess how the net benefits of smart grid technologies might change with different developments in the electricity sector.


Landis+Gyr Metering Infrastructure Company of the Year - 30 Nov


We would like to congratulate SGA founding member Landis+Gyr who has been recognised with the inaugural 2011 Frost & Sullivan Asia Pacific Advanced Metering Infrastructure Company of the Year award during Frost & Sullivan’s 2011 Asia Pacific Best Practices Awards Banquet in November at the Fullerton Ballroom, Singapore.

This prestigious award is presented to the company that exhibits excellence in growth strategy and implementation, degree of innovation with new products and technologies, leadership in customer value and market penetration.

Landis+Gyr’s has been recognised for their outstanding leadership in smart metering technology within the Asia Pacific region as well as the company’s overall performance and proven excellence in taking advantage of market changes by capturing and solidifying market presence.

Landis+Gyr has established and maintained a market leader position in Asia Pacific by partnering with some of the major power utilities of the region to support their smart meter programs. The key reasons for their success include an extensive local presence, customised product offering which suits specific needs of utilities, a modular approach to meter manufacturing, strong focus on R&D, strategic business partnerships and a continued focus on providing value for money to its customers.

The company also ranks as the world leader in electricity metering with a pre-eminent position in advanced or smart metering solutions which is an essential component in global efforts to upgrade energy distribution systems to enable efficient and reliable power supply. 


Customer satisfaction survey for the utility sector - 30 Nov


A new consumer survey conducted by EcoAlign in conjunction with the Customer Care Research Consortium (CCRC), has found the need for a more nuanced view of customer satisfaction in the utility sector. The survey examined the customer metrics used in the energy utility sector, including customer satisfaction scores and alternative customer metrics.

Customer satisfaction scores are used to understand the customers’ needs and measure the utility’s customer service. This is important for internal purposes, with customer satisfaction often included on executive scorecards, and externally, closely watched by regulators and other stakeholders.

Utilities use a wide variety of operational metrics to gauge the efficiency and cost effectiveness of customer operations. Both customer satisfaction and operational metrics are bench-marked against regional peer companies to provide a further understanding of performance.

However, analysts are now questioning the reliance on traditional customer metrics as useful guides to the future of utility customer operations and what customers really want.

There is also an increasing recognition that metrics which measure intangibles of the customer relationship are important. The traditional focus on customer satisfaction has produced a paradox. The utility may be doing an excellent job in regard to customer service and yet experience dramatic drops in customer satisfaction levels due to outside factors such as rate increases (due to market prices) or reliability issues (unforeseeable storms).

Survey findings included:

  • A strong foundation of customer satisfaction and consumer trust in the utility sector which utilities can build on, consumers also are more willing to engage with their utility than in the past.
  • In general consumers appear to be satisfied with the customer service they are receiving. Customers were asked to describe their satisfaction levels with one word, “good” and “expensive” were mentioned most frequently. Other terms mentioned at lower levels were “OK,” “happy,” “helpful,” and “reliable.”
  • Nearly six out of ten consumers felt it was easy to do business with their local electric company.
  • Between five and six out of ten consumers rated their utility company as being trustworthy, with those over age 55 and homeowners the most likely to feel this way.
  • The majority (87%) indicated they would be likely to share the news of utility programs, incentives or information that they find to be attractive and useful with family and friends. Homeowners and those over age 55 would be the most likely to share news of this type.

Powercorp acquired by Zurich based ABB - 30 Nov


ABB, the leading power and automation technology group based in Zurich has agreed to acquire Powercorp, an Australian renewable power automation company. The acquisition will strengthen ABB’s portfolio of control technologies used to manage the integration of renewable energy sources.

Powercorp offers automation and intelligent control solutions to manage renewable energy generation in isolated grids, ensuring utility grade power quality and grid stability. This enables very high levels of wind and solar power penetration into isolated diesel powered grids, thus reducing emissions and dependency on fossil fuel.

Powercorp brings expertise for the integration of renewable energy generation into conventional micro and remote island grids. The acquisition will add specialist know-how and solutions to Powercorp’s control systems offering.

By joining forces with ABB Powercorp will be able to expand their global reach and help create optimal solutions for higher and better use of renewable energy generation.

The transaction is expected to close before year end. 


General Electric propose smart grid as-a-service - 30 Nov


General Electric in conjunction with 3G cellular and Consert is proposing a new smart grid project whereby they will sell smart grid as-a-service.

The city utility of Norcross in Atlanta would like a smart grid but are unable to fund the purchase. GE’s Grid IQ Solutions as a Service will build it for a monthly fee, and then run it all from a giant cloud computing platform in Atlanta.

This new project could mark the start of a new trend. GE hasn't said how much it will charge Norcross per month or how many months it would take to deliver a profit on the project. But the more utilities GE signs, the more economical or profitable the solution will become.

Norcross expects to add about $1 per month to bills for the utility’s 4,200 customers to pay for the project, but customers will benefit with lower meter management costs, quicker outage management response and quicker restoration times. It is predicted that U.S. utilities will spend $8.5 billion from 2011 to 2015 on smart grid enterprise.


New law for South Korean smart grid network - 30 Nov 


South Korean president, Lee Myung Bak has passed legislation on smart power grids that came into effect on 25th November as part of a government plan to reduce carbon emissions.

The legislation, the first of its kind in the world, will create a legal framework for electric-car recharging services and power distributors that use smart-grid networks.

In 2009, South Korea’s government pledged a 30% reduction in carbon emissions from expected levels by 2020. According to data from the ministry, electricity generation accounts for about 40% of emissions. The nation, Asia’s fourth-largest energy user, may spend about 27.5 trillion won ($24 billion) by 2030 building smart grids.


ICTS can move the climate change agenda forward  - 28 Nov


Together with a coalition of industry partners, the ITU will be working to convince delegates at the UN COP 17 climate change conference in Durban next week to harness the power of information and communication technology (ICT) to promote mitigation and adaptation to climate change.

Today’s advanced technologies can transform social, industrial and business processes to effect the changes needed to achieve sustainability. But while the potential of ICTS to make areal difference is widely recognised by the technology community and government ICT ministries, it is still far from being understood and embraced by environmental lobby groups and policymakers.

ITU and its partners will be using COP 17 to promote ICTS as the 21st century’s most valuable problem-solving tools. ITU believes it imperative that they be included as an integral part of global climate change policy.

To this end, ITU and the global e-sustainability initiative (GESI) have initiated the global coalition on ICT and climate change to send a coordinated message to the 2011 UN climate change conference. Organisations in the coalition include the UNFCCC secretariat, the UN global compact, Techamerica, as well as high-level representative from the governments of Ghana, South Africa and Egypt.

The coalition’s message is simple: ICTS such as smart grids, intelligent transport systems and the ‘Internet of Things’ have extraordinary potential to reduce the greenhouse gas (GHS) emissions of other high energy-consuming industry sectors, and must be included in any meaningful climate change policies at the global, regional and national level. As a proof point, the coalition is also showcasing how the ICT industry is using technology to reduce its own carbon footprint.

The COP 17 programme

During the 10 day conference, the coalition will undertake a number of initiatives to get the message across. An ‘ICT booth’ hosted by ITU will showcase presentations on ICT and the environment, and two new ITU reports will be presented showing how ICTS have helped Ghana mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change.

UNFCCC will stage an ICT day on the 1st December, and will host a “Virtual Participation Centre” with video conferences, presentations, exhibits and interactive private sector participation. In addition, two side events will focus exclusively on the role of ICTS in environmental sustainability: ‘ICTS and Adaption’, organised by UNFCCC, and ‘ICTS and Mitigation’ co-organized by Techamerica and GESI, and including contributions from ITU and UNFCCC.

Completing the suite of green ICT events, on the 5th of December GESI will launch the ‘Transformative Step of the Day’, highlighting transformative ICT solutions put forward during the COP-17 negotiations.


Climate warning from International Energy Agency - 24 Nov


The International Energy Agency (IEA) who have been representing the energy sector for over 40 years, has added its dire warnings regarding the lack of decisive action from countries around the world in relation to urgent change that are needed in the wake of climate change.

According to this conservative organisation the current situation will lead to a disastrous 6°C warming, which will see a chain reaction in climate change. Even its still conservative greenhouse limitation target of 450 million points per million, will lead to an unprecedented man-made warming of 2°C.

The 450 scenario requires a dramatic and immediate change in policies and investment, effectively a halt to new coal fired power plants, increased deployment of gas (but only as a transitional fuel), massive investment in renewables, and a significant deployment in nuclear, particularly in developing economies (to replace their coal-fired plans).

The IEA calculates that 80% of that carbon budget is already locked in by plants that have already been built. This “lock-in” leaves little room for manoeuvre. But delaying serious action until 2015, just three years away, would lift that lock-in to 95% of the carbon budget, a scenario that that would mean that half of the world’s coal- and gas-fired energy plants would need to be shut early – by 2035.

If action was delayed until 2017, then the “lock-in” of existing plants would exceed the world’s carbon budget. In this case, the IEA says, if the world wants to meet that 450 target, then no new coal- or gas-fired generation could be built after that time, without forcing the immediate closure of another dirtier plant. Effectively, the only option after 2017 is to build emissions-free generation – renewables and nuclear. Any investment in appliances, buildings and passenger and commercial vehicles after 2017 will also have to be emissions free, or require the early retirement of some existing plant or facility to create headroom for the new investment.

Both transport and energy grids need to be completely transformed. Improved fuel efficiency plays the biggest role in transport, but by 2035, electric vehicles or plug-in hybrids will account for one third of all vehicle sales. Biofuels also are a major contributor.

Coal goes from 32% of capacity (and 41% of generation) to just 13% (and 15%), with a net loss of 300GW of capacity to 1,268GW. To understand the implications of that, around 330GW-worth of plants are now under construction, so more than 600GW of coal fired plants will have to be retired – much of it early. That’s not much of a growth scenario.

Gas nearly doubles its capacity, to 2,10GW, but its market share falls from 24% to 22%; nuclear’s share increases slightly to 9% from 8%, but its capacity also doubles (to 865GW), mostly in developing countries such as China, India and Korea. The share of hydro falls slightly, to 19% from 20% cent, although its capacity also nearly doubles to 1,803GW.

The most dramatic change is in non-hydro renewables, whose share increases phenomenally – from just 4% in 2009, to 34% of global electricity capacity in 2035. Wind capacity grows 10-fold to 1,685GW, sending Landscape Guardians across the globe completely barmy. Solar PV rises 40-fold to 901GW from 22GW in 2009; solar thermal leaps from just 1GW to 226GW; geothermal from 11GW to 60GW; marine from zero to 23GW, and biomass grows six-fold to 329GW. In terms of generation, non-hydro renewables soar to 28% from just 2% in 2009, nuclear and hydro have a 20% share each, while coal drops from 41% to 15%, and gas from 21% to 17%.

Solar thermal has a compound annual growth rate in investment of 35% from 2011 to 2035. Solar PV, even after its spectacular growth in recent years, delivers 15% compound annual growth for the next two and a half decades, wind grows at 10% per annum and marine at 18%.

The renewables sector will attract a total of $20 trillion in new investment. The other growth industries in this scenario are clean transport – fuel efficiency and EVs - which attract around $6.3 trillion. The building sector attracts an extra $4.1 trillion, “smart” energy technology attracts $2 trillion. The losers? Coal capacity slumps by 0.5% per year out to 2035, a net reduction in investment of $6 trillion, and investment in poles and wires would be reduced by $900 billion – even after the investment needed to accommodate intermittent renewables. There is a lot at stake for vested interests.

Delaying action is a false economy. For every $1 of avoided investment between 2011 and 2020, either through reduced low-carbon investment or adoption of cheaper fossil-fuel investment options, an additional $4.30 would need to be spent between 2021 and 2035 to compensate for the increased emissions.

The aggressive investment in the 450 scenario, which includes the dismantling of fossil fuel subsidies, and the diversion of some of that to renewables, will mean consumers around the world actually pay $669 billion less in energy costs than they otherwise would. And, says the IEA, there are other benefits: less pollution; more countries that are energy self reliant (less chance of conflict); healthier people who live longer; and a much greater chance of preventing runaway global warming, with far lower adaptation costs. 


Standards for Energy Internet - 24 Nov


By Bill St Arnaud

Bruce Nordham of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory has developed some very exciting concepts on the networked and telecommunications protocols for the future “Energy Internet” or what he calls “Building Networks”. He rightly recognizes that most of today’s “Smart Grid” protocols are focused around the needs of the electrical utility and its transmission system. While in reality we need a set of protocols that focus on much more distributed set of peer to peer energy sources and sinks. These protocols will be particularly important as the eVehicle becomes an alternate energy transport system to the electrical grid.

The challenge we face with the future Energy Internet, in many ways parallels the development of Internet protocols. On one hand you have the IETF which is focused on developing protocols that enable and empower the end user – which has resulted in an explosion of innovation and new products and services. In contrast you have the ITU whose focus has been developing protocols that enable and empower the telco/cableco to control and manage the customer experience(e.g. NGN), where the end user is seen no more than a dumb consumer. It is no surprise that most authoritarian governments and dictators favor the ITU approach.

We are seeing similar issues with the smart grid, where most of the standards development is focused on tools for the utility and grid operator to manage and control the flow of electricity to and from the grid. Utility are largely focused on reducing costs, and not reducing
CO2 emissions, or god forbid empowering the consumer. That is why protocol work of “Building Networks” is so important.

Beyond the Smart Grid: Building Networks 

The Case against the Smart Grid  


Utilities making progress on smart grid cyber security - 21 Nov


A new report from Pike Research finds that utilities’ cyber security challenges are yet to be resolved. The security vulnerabilities facing the electrical grid have been a major topic of discussion as utilities worldwide move ahead with their smart grid deployment initiatives.

Utilities are invested in compliance minimums over the last few years instead of full security. This has given attackers nearly free rein. Many attacks simply cannot be defended. During the past 18 months utilities have now become aware of the importance of securing smart grids with architecturally sound solutions.

Cyber security solutions remain challenging to implement, especially as attackers gain awareness of the holes between point solutions. Security vendors are focusing increasingly on industrial control system (ICS) security and not only on advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) security.

The research examines key trends in smart grid cyber security that will be major issues for the industry over the next few years. These include:
• cyber security investments will be shaped by regional deployments
• industrial control systems, not smart meters, will be the primary cyber security focus
• the lack of security standards will hinder action
• aging infrastructure: older devices will continue to pose challenges
• system implementation will be more important than component security


Energy Smart Technologies Leadership Forum - 21 Nov


The 2011 Energy Smart Technologies Leadership Forum recently took place in Portugal and was hosted by Bloomberg New Energy Finance. The Forum convened more than 60 thought-leading experts in smart energy from international utilities, technology and service companies, government bodies, finance providers and non-governmental organisations.

The participants debated a series of critical issues that will determine how smart energy will transform the power sector over the next 10 years. Though uncertainty about the global economy remains, the Forum’s participants were still optimistic that the smart grid sector can thrive over the next few years and help to deliver a cleaner, more efficient and more cost-effective energy system.

There are still many building blocks that must be put in place to obtain the benefits of smart energy technology. Some of these include:

• Investment in smarter infrastructure
• Smart homes and consumers
• Electric Vehicle Integration
• Fostering new business models
• Technology Development
• Scenarios for multiple possible futures

For more information see:
2011 Energy Smart Technologies Leadership Forum – The Results Book  


Smart grid security technologies - 21 Nov


According to a new report from ABI Research, an estimated $590 million was spent on smart grid security technologies in 2010 and by 2016 that number is projected to surpass $2 billion.

Security spending on transmission upgrades made up the largest portion of this spending, accounting for approximately 54% of the total in 2011. This segment is predicted to remain the largest for the next five years. Security spending on substation and distribution automation is also forecast to be significant over the next few years.

Electric vehicle (EV) charging stations are expected to see the highest security growth rates out of all smart grid segments, increasing from $6 million in 2011 to $150 million by 2016. EV charging stations faced similar security issues to smart meters, such as data protection and tampering with the charging stations. The largest areas of development in security will be EV authentication of vehicles and physical security features.

Over the last 3 years there has been an increased focus on smart grid security. As well as providing security protection against physical and cyber-attacks on the smart grid, utilities are spending significant amounts of money on closed-circuit television (CCTV) surveillance and security software. 


Stop smart meters? - 21 Nov 


The Stopsmartmeter group in the USA reported that PG&E has begun to remove smart meters due to ‘alleged’ negative health effects.

The group claims that just as PG&E, the largest of the state's investor-owned utilities in California, is entering the final phase of its deployment of wireless smart meters it has reversed course and quietly begun to replace the 'smart' meters of those reporting health impacts with the trusty old analogue version.

Consumer rights and health groups immediately seized on the news, demanding that millions of Californians unhappy with their new wireless meters get their analogue versions returned immediately at no cost.

Smart meters are new wireless utility meters that are being installed as part of the ‘smart grid initiative’, spearheaded by technology firms and backed by the Obama administration and the Department of Energy. Promises ranging from lower utility bills to enhanced renewable generation capacity have failed to materialise, and according to the lobby group there have been widespread reports of higher bills, privacy violations, fires and explosions, and health impacts such as headaches, nausea, tinnitus and heart problems associated with powerful wireless transmissions.

It appears that this is more scaremongering than reality. According to Fred Goldstein from
ionary Consulting, utilities normally operate under the same Part 15 rules as other unlicensed devices, with a 1 watt maximum power level, and a very low duty cycle.  A January 2011 report from the California Council on Science and Technology (CCST) examined the meters that PG&E was using.  They were 902-928 MHz, 1 watt maximum, with a 50 millisecond burst of data every 4 hours.

Some meters are used in meshing, however, and they transmit more often when relaying from others.  Nevertheless the duty cycle still would not exceed 4%.  Even at 100% duty cycle the power level is safe.  The access points, usually at pole top, use .25 to 1 watt transmitters in the 800-900 MHz or 1900 MHz (cellular/PCS) bands.  Some home meters support a second WiFi (2.4 GHz) access point for in-home communications, <1/4 watt, although these are not in service at this stage.

The World Health Organization finds no effect, except perhaps in those ‘hyper-sensitive’ to normal use at normal levels.

On the other hand, utilities installing these meters have generally overpromised and under-delivered on the benefits to the end-user. This is where the real problem lies – much better consumer information and education is needed. The problem, however, is that with such information now coming from a very negative perspective it will be more difficult to win consumers back.

Retail smart meters are probably the least productive place for smart grid technology.  What is really needed is smarts within the distribution networks, to make more efficient use of the network and to shift supply more flexibly to meet demand. The distribution grids are using ancient technology and are woefully under-capitalised.

The end-user benefits of the smart grid are not yet apparent because there are at this stage only a few devices that can take advantage of it, but nevertheless the focus should be on smart grids rather than on smart meters.

Paul Budde

See also:
Global SG reports 


LAN Energy Efficiency Opportunities Green Paper - 21 Nov


A paper by our colleagues at  Cirrant Partners Inc. highlights the “scotoma” or blind spot of the existing IT Network energy management model and provides a perspective to the future paradigm in IT Network Infrastructure. This unmanaged energy, a large amount of which is presently being consumed unnecessarily, due to insufficient incentives, representing billions of dollars wasted.

The  enterprise  best practices today, for the build out of LAN infrastructure, are locked into a copper cabling medium with a 100 meter limitation necessitating switching hardware based on a 3-tier architectural design. This copper based design, while it has served the industry well over the last 20 years along with the growth of the Internet, has scalability that results in diseconomies.

Standards based technologies are available which can be used to dematerialize much of the hardware that is currently manifested in the 3-tier architectural design, via a hybrid design consisting of fiber, wireless, and copper. This new design can diminish the need of wiring closets throughout a building and significantly reduce the power consuming HVAC, real estate space, and administrative costs.

Dematerialization by itself will result in significant CAPEX and OPEX savings.

From the case study illustrated in this report the potential savings of the new LAN design instead of the copper based infrastructure resulted  in  power  savings  of  66% and CAPEX savings of 33%.Additionally, savings in the cabling infrastructure build out time, 96 staff-weeks to 24 staff-weeks, were achieved.

Billions of kWh of energy are now ready for harvesting, which will only occur if the necessary cross-discipline management practices and the right incentives are in place.

This White Paper can be obtained at:


Building the future “Energy Internet” - 21 Nov


By Bill St Arnaud

There is a lot of interesting working going on in this field in New Zealand and China. Internet engineers have long recognized the value of packet based networks, as they have many advantages over circuit based network architecture such as the ability to easily route around failures, to make more efficient use of network resources and to put the user or end device in control of the network.

In theory, building packet based energy delivery systems would also potentially enable a variety of new economic models or services. But the biggest challenge is finding a technology that would allow large power loads to be delivered and routed independent of each other from supplier to consumer. It is hard to imagine building an Ethernet switch or router that can process and handle packets of several hundred kilowatt-hours of power. However a number of companies are recognizing that the electric vehicle may be the ideal “packet” based power delivery system, which has the added advantage of already having an existing network infrastructure in place made up of our roads and highways. Rather than charging the eVehicle from stationary charging systems at home or business using power from the utility grid as is done today, a simpler architecture would be charge the vehicle as it moves, either through induction coils, or ultra-capacitor discharge umbrellas located every few kilometers or at stop lights and drive-through fast food restaurants or banks.

Not only do these systems provide power to the transport vehicles they can also be used to store and forward, or route power with every passing vehicle to enable delivery of power from a given source to destination. To date the deployment and adoption of electric vehicles has been hindered as they been simply seen as a one to one replacement for the traditional gas vehicle. But if the eVehicle could also be used not only for transportation, but as a low cost alternative to the utility grid, then it might have a much greater take up rate, as well as eliminating range anxiety.

For more info see: 

Some additional pointers:

Green Investment Opportunity for small business - on the move electric car charging 

How California suburban sprawl could be the answer to global warming 

Packet Based Energy Delivery Systems

The "Energy Internet" - how the Internet + renewable energy can transform the economy

Electric roads and Internet will allow coast to coast driving with no stopping and no emissions

A new look at an old idea: Powering autos from overhead wires 


New Zealand recharge technology worth $70m in US deal - 15 Nov 


A joint-venture firm established by Auckland University has been bought by US firm Qualcomm after inventing the "Inductive Power Technology" device which allows electric cars to be charged without cables.

The device works when a car drives over a pad which transfers electricity to the vehicle. The device then sends the owner a message when the charging is complete.

University vice-chancellor Stuart McCutcheon said the technology would be turned into a "world gold standard" for the industry and could end up "powering pretty much every electric vehicle in the world".

The technology dates back to 1988 when Professor John Boys transferred an electric charge across two points without the need for plugs. The university's commercial arm UniServices will retain patents for the technology which were assigned to it by a group of professors and students, who will continue to receive lucrative financial rewards as it is hopefully licensed to the world's big carmakers.

The developers of this technology have managed to set up magnetic fields capable of transferring electricity by as much as 450mm between power plates. That is more than twice the distance sought by carmakers interested in "plug-less" rechargeable batteries, meaning they can reduce the weight of the plates without losing their edge over the competition.

This means that instead of having to plug in batteries for four or five hours, drivers could simply park them over a power plate, which could transfer electricity even if covered with water. 


Worldwide smart metering research project - 10 Nov 


A new report commissioned by The European Smart Meter Industry Group (ESMIG) shows that after an independent review of 100 smart meter pilots and roll outs across the world, smart metering installations could cut UK households electricity bills by £938M a year.

The report identifies the kinds of activities and technology that are needed to maximize the customer and industry energy saving benefits from smart metering. It shows that, if the technology and customer engagement is correct, hundreds of millions of pounds could be saved by consumers in Britain every year, and that smart meters could make a significant contribution towards achieving EU goals of a 20% reduction in energy use by 2020.

The report also demonstrated:
• significant reductions in the amount of energy used by consumers and when they use it,
• worldwide, customers who received an energy display with their smart meter achieved on average an 8.5% reduction in the amount of electricity they used.
• This level of saving across UK households would equate to £938 million cut from electricity bills,
• lower but still significant reductions were achieved from enhanced bills showing detailed energy usage and web based displays,
• different pricing structures and automation were effective in encouraging customers to use energy at off-peak times and reducing overall energy use when used as part of a well designed consumer engagement and education programme.

Technology was identified as the key to enable consumer benefits. The success of pilots and roll outs and the savings customers made, varied depending on socioeconomic factors, consumers’ consumption patterns, rollout program content and structure, and what customers were using energy for.

The report also found that if smart meter rollout is to maximize energy efficiency savings to customers that consumers will need to have access to good-quality support, advice and education.

The study identified that what customers valued most and responded to best was an in-home display which shows them: up to date consumption information (i.e. how much energy they have used between the last bill and now); up-to-date cost or bill (i.e. how high is their bill since they last paid); and historical consumption (i.e. how much electricity have they used during this period compared to the previous periods) in a format they can understand. 


M2M communication nodes - 10 Nov


According to a new report from Pike Research, increased utility adoption of public wireless networks around the world will drive the cumulative shipment of 73 million cellular M2M communication nodes for use in smart grid applications during the period from 2011 through 2020.

The report forecasts that global unit shipments will peak at 10.7 million units annually in 2015, coinciding with the peak in the build out of neighborhood area networks (NANs) for smart meter connectivity, before unit volumes reduce to 8.2 million nodes annually by 2020. Revenue from the sale of cellular communication nodes to utilities will reach $1.9 billion.

In the next 10 years, 3G network technologies including UMTS/HSPA and EV-DO will make up approximately 54% of the total market for cellular M2M node shipments in the smart grid sector. 2G air interface technologies such as GSM/GPRS/EDGE and 1xRTT, despite their age and technological limitations, will capture 25% of the smart grid market. Emerging 4G networks will represent the fastest growing segment of the smart grid market; LTE networks will represent a 19% share of the total utility market between 2011 and 2020, with WiMAX networks capturing 2% of the public carrier market for smart grid applications. 


End to Smart Grid project in Boulder? - 10 Nov


A referendum in Boulder, Colorado will decide if the public will take over Xcel Energy, effectively ending one of the most high-profile smart grid projects in the US. The referendum comes after Xcel Energy spent more than $44.8 million, exceeding its original budget estimate of $15 million.

Supporters of the public take-over say Xcel based in Minneapolis, is not adding renewable energy fast enough and are they are now seeking greater control over the local power grid.

According to Xcel, a takeover could lead to increased costs, as the city issues bonds to buy the infrastructure. The company says it's already on its way to boosting the amount of power it supplies from wind turbines and solar farms to 30% by 2020 from about 11%, as required by state law.

According to Xcel, the expense of building a fiber-optic network, instead of using cheaper wireless technology, to monitor energy use helped drive the cost of the project above expectations.

The utility is still studying how the smart-grid technology affected energy consumption and plans to release a report on the first phase of the project. Early findings show the technology helped Xcel to respond faster to power outages and deliver power with fewer interruptions.


Smartgrids drive utility spending - 03 Nov


Spending on IT by Australian utilities including water, gas and electricity providers, is set to grow 2.6 percent in 2012, according to a new Gartner report.

That mightn't sound like much – but utility spending on IT has been flat for the past few years, the research firm says. Next year's spend is tipped to reach A$2.4 billion.

One reason for the change of heart appears to be the advent of smartgrids and smart meter deployments, which will spur spending on external IT services, the biggest spending category for utility companies.


Apple building 171 acre solar panel farm - 04 Nov


Across the street from Apple’s $1 billion data center located in Maiden, North Carolina, the company has apparently started construction for a planned 171 acre solar panel farm. Apple is calling the project, "Project Dolphin Solar Farm A Expanded." Project Dolphin is Apple's code name for its North Carolina data center.

The data center came online in mid 2011 in order to power the company's icloud and iTunes Store cloud services. The 500,000 square foot facility requires large amounts of electricity to power and cool its racks of servers and storage arrays.

A large solar array will help to offset the reliance on coal-powered electricity from the local grid. Apple’s Austin, Texas offices use some renewable energy sources as well. The solar array appears to be part of Apple's overall commitment to making its operations as green as possible.