Good news for smart meters and buildings, a squall for marine energy


By: SGN Staff

By Doug Peeples

SGN News Editor


It seems there's always speculation and commentary that the smart grid initiative is slowing down. And while it's true in some sectors, we certainly aren't seeing that as an overall trend. Global smart meter shipments are growing at an impressive rate as is the market for smart building managed services. And while renewables have experienced some setbacks, we're seeing growth there, too.


We're going to share what we're seeing in those markets in the variety of papers and reports that keep coming our way. And we're including some cautionary news on smart grid cyber security.


Demand jumps for smart building managed services

According to Pike Research, the global economic recession pressured building owners and managers to install building energy management systems (BEMS) to cut energy use and operating costs. But while the systems can deliver much greater efficiency, they can be too sophisticated for the abilities and resources available to a building's operations or maintenance staff. So, Pike says, smart building managed services are more in demand and getting more popular as a way to deal with those and other building energy management issues. The bottom line? Global spending on those and related services will increase from $291 million in 2012 to $1.1 billion by 2020.


And while their numbers and scopes are different, an earlier report from the Building Services Research and Information Association (BSRIA) underscores that trend. BSRIA says the smart building market overall will grow from its current level in Asia of $427 billion to $1,036 billion in 2020. The report explains that Asia will use 45% of the world's energy by 2030, and that the unheard of urbanization rate in the region "relies on smart buildings to reduce climate change impact." It goes on to say smart cities are being developed in South Korea, Japan, China, Malaysia, India and very likely others. Singapore is slated to become a 'smart nation' by 2015.


Smart meter market growing fast... elsewhere

In its Worldwide Quarterly Smart Meter Tracker report, IDC Energy Insights says  global smart meter shipments in the second quarter of this year were 33.6% higher in volume than the previous quarter and up just above 51% year over year. IDC expects to see annual global shipments exceed 130 million by year end. The advisory and consulting firm adds that while the U.S. market continues to recede from its stimulus era high, the smart meter markets in Europe, Asia, the Middle East and Latin America are picking up momentum - although Europe's overall initiative seems to be lagging because it is taking longer than expected to complete the regulatory framework. The report also highlights Brazil, Russia, India and China as having "significant potential" for the AMI industry, because of quickly growing energy use, outdated infrastructure and other issues.


Speaking of Brazil...

Business intelligence firm GBI Research says Brazil is solidly behind alternative power sources and is promoting investment. The country's demand for energy is growing quickly as its economy expands. In 2011 the Latin American country's total installed capacity was 120,553 megawatts and 80% of that total was provided by renewable energy. While 70% of that renewable figure was in large-scale hydropower, the remaining 10% was made up of biomass, wind, solar and small hydro. While the renewables contribution isn't huge, it is expected to grow from 13,620 megawatts in 2012 to 38,015 megawatts by the end of the decade. While wind now contributes a relatively small amount to the energy portfolio, the Brazilian government plans to tap the south's stiff offshore gales. Solar's contribution is even smaller but is growing at a stunning compound annual growth rate of 59%, GBI says.



Scotland's marine energy ambitions hit a snag: money

While Scotland is extremely ambitious in its initiatives to develop wind, wave and tidal energy, those types of offshore projects could hit some rough weather. Ofgem, which regulates electricity and gas in Great Britain, conducted a review recently that was expected to result in lower grid connection-related charges for island-based projects such as an advanced wave and tidal project at Scotland's Pentland Firth and Orkney Waters.


But that is not, apparently, what happened. "Ofgem's review was expected to bring down charges for renewable generation given its commitment to facilitate the move to a low carbon energy sector," said Niall Stuart of Scottish Renewables. "However, we are seeing charges on the islands continue to increase, dwarfing those on the mainland." The organization produced a report that indicated that while connection costs for mainland renewable generators dropped as a result of the Ofgem review, they have almost doubled for the Pentland Firth location. Stakeholders are afraid that those charges, which are very high, will put the brakes on project investment. New undersea cabling and larger grid connecting cabling will be needed for that project to accommodate the large amount of power expected to be generated, and they are  incredibly expensive.


Time to refocus the focus on cyber security

Cyber security isn't just an IT problem for energy companies, whether they're electric utilities or oil and gas companies, says a new paper from Rice University's Baker Institute for Public Policy. The paper says those companies are seeing new security risks from malicious software, usually referred to as malware. "These risks can affect the continuity of their operations, capacity to deliver products and services and ability to protect investments - particularly in research and development - from theft or unauthorized disclosure," a Rice news release said. The author of the paper, Chris Bronk, is a Baker Institute fellow in information technology policy. He commented "For the energy industry, cyber security is not just a technology problem, but rather is one that includes the larger dynamics of information and operations." He added that more research investment, collaboration and "unorthodox combinations of expertise from within the computing field" will be needed to develop the institutions to deal with those problems and get the industry to move beyond its "reactive posture."