Whether you are a customer (and we all are), a utility executive, a power plant manager, or a grid operator, the smart grid has the potential to provide benefits beyond electricity. That was one theme of the presentations on Tuesday, the first day of the GridWise Global Forum (GGF) in Washington, D.C.

The event, which runs through Thursday, is an inaugural effort of the GridWise Alliance and the U.S. Department of Energy. According to opening remarks by GridWise Alliance Chairman Guido Bartels, the partners want the GGF “to be the Davos of smart grid.” Toward that lofty goal, the organizers enlisted some smart grid A-listers from around the world.

Under Secretary of Energy Kristina Johnson and Bartels opened the event and announced the formation on Monday of the Global Smart Grid Federation, “an international organization to promote best practices and to help accelerate the deployment of smart grid around the world.”

According to the press release, “Founding members of GSGF are national smart grid policy or advocacy organizations, represented by their respective chairman, president or equivalent officer on the Board of Directors. The members include: GridWise® Alliance (U.S.); India Smart Grid Forum; Japan Smart Community Alliance; Korean Smart Grid Association; Smart Grid Australia; SmartGridIreland; and SmartGrid Canada.”

The opening keynote address by IBM Chairman, President, and CEO Samuel J. Palmisano focused on the smart grid as a “systems engineering problem.” As it stands today, the energy system fails to meet the four criteria of a “well-functioning system” as Palmisano defined it:

  • First, there must be clarity on the system’s purpose or goal – a vision of its end-state.
  • Second, its elements must actually be connected – which is another way of saying, integration matters.
  • Third, we must be able to know, continually and with confidence, the status of the system and its critical components.
  • Finally, the system must be able to adapt as conditions change, often in real time.

Progress is being made, he said, “But one element of this ecosystem hasn’t yet been successfully engaged or mobilized – and it is the most important one of all: the energy consumer.”

“Doing that,” Palmisano continued, “isn’t a matter of dashboards, or advertising, or advocacy. It means designing a system that is optimized for them. One that considers the many modes and motives of energy users – from productivity-conscious manufacturers, to strip-mall landlords, to low-income renters, to green-conscious citizens. One that gives them easy ways to control their energy usage, and that engages their hearts and minds to take a more active role in doing so.”

Palmisano also called for open standards, “smart systems by design,” collaboration, and policy and ethics commitments.

The following panel discussion included Palmisano; American Electric Power (AEP) Chairman, President, and CEO Michael Morris; and DONG Energy CEO Anders Eldrup.

According to Morris, the “benefits on our side of the meter are substantial,” as they are for customers and regulators. As for customers, Morris noted, “One thing our industry is great at is complicating things. Let’s not do that [with the smart grid]. Let’s supply the customer with what they need.”

Denmark’s Eldrup provided one memorable example of a smart grid benefit that even most advocates aren’t anticipating: When electric vehicles (EVs) are integrated into the energy system, “It won’t be very clever to steal a car” because the utility will know where the car is charging or discharging to the grid and will be able to alert law enforcement.

In the lunch keynote address, Federal Energy Regulatory Chairman (FERC) Jon Wellinghoff also addressed EVs. He gave the example of a University of Delaware professor who has five Toyota Scions that have been converted to electric operation and that are providing regulation services to the PJM Interconnection. In a study with the first EV, PJM regulators saw that the Scion, which appeared as a line item for automatic generator control, provided instantaneous response—much faster than what is typically supplied by a generator. The car can charge during the same time period as it is providing regulation power, without diminishing battery life. What’s more, the professor is paid “regulation services” tariff rates amounting to $7 to $10 per day per car.

That’s one specific example of how the smart grid—a bidirectional flow of both information and power—can benefit grid operators and, by extension, generators, who would no longer bear sole responsibility for providing such ancillary services.

After his keynote, POWER asked the FERC chair what the smart grid has to offer power generators in particular. He offered three benefits:

  • Less congestion.
  • More robust markets for both conventional and renewable power.
  • Markets that operate more efficiently.

The first day’s presenters also included smart grid leaders from Ireland, China, Australia, Brazil, Israel, South Africa, India, and Italy. Each of those countries is at a different stage in its smart grid deployment, and each has different goals for its smart grid. That divergence of goals is inevitable, many presenters noted. They also agreed that, in spite of varied goals, leaders in all countries can learn best practices from pilots around the world.

Wednesday’s topics include customer engagement, integrating wireless technology, regulatory models, research, transforming the workforce, interoperability, grid security, and data privacy.

Thursday’s speakers include New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, GE Chairman and CEO Jeffrey Immelt, and Other Lab Chief Scientist Saul Griffith.

For selected quotes from Forum speakers, follow POWER on Twitter and Facebook.

Source: POWER magazine