U.S. Lagging in Efforts to Automate the Grid

The U.S. is in around “100th place” worldwide when it comes to efforts to automate the grid, Thomas Siebel, chairman and CEO of C3 IoT, said March 1 during a keynote presentation at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) Energy Innovation Summit.

“They’re not even in the game, and I think it has something to do with the regulatory infrastructure in the United States., but honestly, we’re not even in the game,” he said.

According to Siebel, China is the global leader when it comes to grid automation, “followed by Western Europe, [which] is close behind, then comes Japan.”

The nation is missing out in not ramping up its efforts in this area, Siebel suggested.

Currently, the nation is focusing on the wrong parts of the energy system in seeking potential efficiency improvements, he said. “When people think about energy efficiency, I would say in the last 10 years, particularly in the United States, they look at the end points of the grid,” he explained.

The U.S. has put a lot of effort into increasing efficiency on the supply side of the electricity system. “They think about … changing the source of fuel from hydrocarbon to nonhydrocarbon-based fuel sources,” he explained.

Focus is also otherwise placed on demand-side energy efficiency and conservation. “They’re looking at energy efficiency measures to figure out how we can get people to turn out the lights,” he said. “To the tune of we spent I think $10 billion a year in 39 states to get people to turn out the lights.”

With so much focus on the source and end use of electricity, the rest of the system is forgotten. “The real opportunity is to optimize the entire machine, to look at the machine. We can do this by looking at it as a cyber-physical system,” he said.

C3 IoT, Siebel noted, has developed a platform that allows grid operators to “look at the machine” and build, design, develop, deploy, and operate large-scale cyber-physical systems.

Abby L. Harvey is a POWER reporter.