Keynotes and Smart Grid Communications Highlights of Connectivity Week Conference in Santa Clara, CA

On May 26th, U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke (soon to be U.S. Ambassador to China) delivered a short but impressive keynote address at the Connectivity Week conference in Santa Clara, CA.  The audience didn’t have an opportunity to ask questions, because Mr. Locke’s talk was delivered via a video recording.

Here were his main points;

-Smart Grid could reduce global power demand by 20% or more and significantly reduce carbon emissions.

-Power outages cost U.S. $500 per person per year.  Smart grid technology could reduce number of power failures Gary Gary and quicken time to recover power.

-Economic benefits are expected to be three or four times the cost of building the smart grid (but what about maintaining it, e.g. OPEX?).

-Smart Grid products will be controlled over the Internet by consumers

-Canada, Brazil, European Union, China, and India are all working on Smart Grid projects.

-We must move forward, with all deliberate speed to progress Smart Grid standards, which are essential for interoperability and to drive costs down,

Note: It seems NIST is the Smart Grid umbrella standards organization in the U.S.

During his May 25th keynote, Aneesh Chopra, CTO of the United States, delivered a strong challenge to the audience of Smart Grid innovators, influencers, technologists, and decision makers.

Chopra challenged the audience to find solutions and answers to this question: “How can we safely and securely provide customers electronic access to their energy information, thereby supporting the continuing development of innovative new products and services in the energy sector?”

He spoke to one of the federal government’s key agenda items — fostering innovation around Smart Grid, energy efficiency, and renewable energy. Meeting the President’s goal of 80 percent clean energy by 2035 “demands a modernized electrical grid,” Chopra stated. In the context of discussing the entrepreneurial opportunities in the Smart Grid and smart energy arenas, he said, “My thesis is there’s never been a better time to be an innovator.”

“Aneesh Chopra energized the ConnectivityWeek crowd and delivered a clear message for entrepreneurs here in Silicon Valley and throughout the country,” said Anto Budiardjo, president and CEO, Clasma Events. “We are thrilled to have such a strong commitment to smart energy from the top levels of government and to provide the opportunity for industry-wide collaboration in support of these goals.”

Here are a few network and communications related take aways from this excellent conference (more in follow up articles):

-There are no Smart Grid standards or recommendation for either Home Area Networks (HANs) or the access network the Advanced Meter Infrastructure (AMI) will use for meter reading and control of other utility owned instruments.   The AMI fixed line access network could be proprietary wireless, Broadband over Power Line (BoPL), or other network technology. 

-BoPL is not likely to be used for critical Smart Grid communications.  That’s because it won’t be available when you most need it, i.e. in the event of a power failure.

-AMI access network usually feeds into a proprietary wireless mesh network that may carrier other traffic types, e.g. commands to utility substations.  Most of those networks use lightly licensed or unlicensed spectrum and mesh node topology with either IEEE 802.11n (WiFi) or proprietary OFDM PHY protocol with Ethernet MAC frames.

-Klaus Bender of UTC (Advocate of Utility Telecommunications interests) writes there are several potential smart grid telecom networks: corporate enterprise backbone network, the field force voice dispatch/ mobile data terminal network, the AMI meter reading network, and the command/control network for the power grid itself.

-Many utilities own their own fiber and provide a fiber optic backbone within their city or district.  This is the case for Silicon Valley Utilities (formerly Santa Clara Municipal Utilities).  Very few utilities are planning to deploy Fiber to the Home or Business.

-Most utilities prefer to operate their own network – sometimes hiring a 3rd party to run it for them.  They don’t trust  public network providers and especially  availability/reliability in the event of a natural disaster or emergency.  However, some utes expressed the desire for a hybrid network- one where critical tasks are conveyed over a private network and remedial tasks are facilitated by a public network

-Almost all utillities want to receive meter/ instrument data from customer premises to be processed in the cloud.  This presents stringent requirements for security and such networks must be very reliable and always available.  Yet one company – Heart Transverter in Costa Rico- has taken a completely different approach.  They put all the logic and decision making for control and management of energy systems within the customer premises.  We were impressed with this iconoclastic approach.  It was said that consumers want more engagement when it comes to smart grid meters, instruments, and energy management sytems (whether located on or off premises).

-FCC has been almost singlularly focused on broadband for unserved and underserved areas and neglected utilties need for additional licensed spectrum that could be used for Smart Grid projects.  Utilities currently use licensed spectrum for voice calls and narrowband data transmission/ telemetry readings, but many of them don’t have sufficient spectrum to build a robust wireless mesh network.  Hence, they resort to mesh WiFi over unlicensed spectrum.

Since 2004, the Buildy Awards have been presented at Connectivity Week to leaders, visionaries, and implementers of smart devices and smart systems. The five Buildy Award winner are listed by category:

-Smart Buildings: BuildingIQ for building energy optimization, which is helping to reduce energy consumption by more than 30 percent in commercial buildings in Australia. The technology is now available in North America.

-Smart Homes: Heart Transverter for efforts to build the Smart Grid from the bottom up, one house at a time, a truly innovative concept for driving home-to-grid connectivity with integrated energy storage, energy security, and more.

-Smart Industrial: Powerit Solutions for delivering integrated energy efficiency and automated demand response (AutoDR), yielding energy and demand savings for Four Star, a table grape producer in Delano, Calif.

-Smart Grid: The Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) for the Électricité de France (EDF) PREMIO Project — a collaborative five-year demonstration project with 19 utility members to optimize integration of distributed energy resources, enabling load relief, network support, and CO2 reduction in the southeast of France.

-Connectivity Visionary: The GridWise® Architecture Council (GWAC) for leadership in the following areas: focusing vendor, policymaker, utility, and media attention on interoperability; fostering cooperation among engineers and policymakers to effectively address technical issues in ways non-technical communities understand; raising interoperability capabilities; and educating all stakeholders about interoperability.

“At Connectivity Week, we bring smart energy leaders and visionaries together from both sides of the meter — including the utility side and the consumption side,” said Anto Budiardjo, President and CEO of Clasma Events. “This year’s Buildy Award winners represent the leaders who are driving the smart energy vision to become a mainstream reality. They are true industry role models.”

Future articles on Connectivity Week will cover the Communications oriented sessions.  Here is one of them:

Please see Daniel Wong’s summary of the Mobile Data Offload Panel Session at Connectivity Week: