Like the Smart Grid itself, our recent discussions on Smart Grid have been far reaching and interconnected. Each of the five shows we’ve conducted in the past few months have been intent on updating conversations on utilities to introduce new, innovative ways to deal with Smart Grid challenges and produce value. As a guide to our whole series, here are five of the most important statements spoken during each of our programs.
“Smart Grid enables consumers to have better information, better education and be able to make better decisions.”- Dennis Gribble, VP and CIO of Idaho Power – The Smart City Project: Infrastructure, Industry and Citizens
Many city planners are currently dreaming up ways in which new forms of technology can be used to build smart cities, a community in which information on weather, traffic, lights and energy will go to improving the life of citizens and businesses alike. Smart Grid could be just the thing to aid and enable this transition for cities with aging infrastructures. Smart Grid allows consumers to have better information about their energy consumption and also provides utilities with greater ease in gathering data and maintaining resilience.
“We have a very, very reliable Grid, but as the cost of maintaining that continues to increase, at some point it does begin to make sense to bring in new technologies to replace the existing infrastructure.”- Ravi Pradhan, VP of Technology, Siemens Smart Grid – Managing Transition to Smart Grid
The transition to Smart Grid has been viewed as a critical move for utilities because the current infrastructure is in serious need of updating. Smart Grid offsets the cost of maintaining the grid by updating it with newer technologies, thus reducing the amount of maintenance that would be required.
The Smart Grid’s advantages additionally include reducing the carbon footprint, modernizing the grid, being able to provide more information to consumers that could create different business models, economically charge electric vehicles and more.
“Our processes are not really established or set up to have data coming in on a more real-time or near real-time basis.”– Mark Wyatt, VP for Grid Modernization and Distribution, Duke Energy – Smart Grid Big Data Challenge
Data that utilities extract from the system today is often days, weeks or even months behind when it is first collected in the field. Smart Grid will produce even more data, but the value comes not from the sheer amount of data but the real-time information designed to improve reliability and availability.
Data management policies will need to be adapted to analyze this data in real-time, but selectively bringing back only certain elements necessary to help customers understand their energy consumption and provide them with accurate billing info will greatly limit the overwhelming effects of Big Data.
“Micro grids and renewable energies are a way of adding value to it that goes beyond just the free fuel factor.”– Dirk Mahling, CIO, Seattle City Light – Making Renewable Energy a Lasting Priority
Many consumers will look to Smart Grid as a way to implement neighborhood PV arrays that enable them to make choices about clean energy consumption. But the interconnectivity provided by Smart Grid also offers utilities new business value and added resilience.
However, utilities, politicians and consumers must collaborate to decide where investments must go within distribution companies in order to link infrastructure pieces.
“This is a new kind of enemy that we are looking at, and it is equal to a physical attack, but it is cyber warfare that we are looking at, and our utilities by themselves cannot stand to that kind of warfare.”– Mamatha Chamarthi, VP and CIO, CMS Energy – Utility Resilience and Security
The interconnectivity of the Smart Grid raises certain red flags. Residential and utility data privacy becomes a concern, and numerous digital entry points for hackers could tell critical information about a business or consumer based on their current energy consumption.
This could be tantamount to attacks on a critical infrastructure from a nation state, not just an individual hacker, and utilities need federal government collaboration to attain intelligence necessary to combat such an attack. Doing so is not just a preventative measure but also a recovery one in the event of a natural disaster.
View our whole Smart Grid series here, and check back on the CIO Talk Radio blog for other discussion topics on Smart Grid.