The Next 10 Years: Why hurdles to DG, DR and storage will prove worth jumping


Editor's note: SGN is celebrating its 10th year with a look ahead. This is the eighth installment of our The Next 10 Years series where industry insiders offer insights on smart grid issues and trends they expect to see in the coming decade. (The previous segments are linked at the end of today's story.) As always, we welcome your comments; please use the Talk Back form at the bottom of the page.



By Liz Enbysk

SGN Managing Editor


Rodger Smith of Oracle calls distributed generation {DG) "the most disruptive influence electric utilities have faced in recent history.” But the company’s SVP and General Manager for Utilities also believes DG provides great opportunities to improve reliability, reduce both costs and emissions and improve power quality. It is one of several technologies that most of our experts consider "must haves.”


Yet with DG as well as the two other oft-cited requisites of a smart grid -- demand response and energy storage - there will be challenges to surmount. Let’s take a look at some of the opportunities and the barriers that will need to be overcome in the next few years as seen by insiders from Ventyx, S&C Electric, Echelon and other industry leaders.


With DG, Smith says decoupling mechanisms that allow for appropriate network charges and payment policies, including changes to the utility’s revenue model, are imperative.


"DG also has the ability to disrupt the operation of system protection schemes, so changing safety and security issues need to be addressed too,” Smith adds.


DG enjoys broad-based support in the utility industry, says Conrad Eustis, Director of Retail Technology Strategy for Portland General Electric. He notes that solar installations are becoming more cost effective and he anticipates continued cost declines and market growth.


Trends in grid reliability

Technologies that improve the reliability of the grid will be increasingly important in the next decade.


Echelon CEO Ron Sege lists technologies that do outage detection, outage response, outage prevention as well as the distributed generation of solar and wind mentioned earlier. He also includes microgrids that collect, store and distribute energy locally and software decision-making technologies, as an area where he sees lots of interest.


Rickey of Schneider Electric concurs that microgrids will be important in the coming decade and, as he puts it, "no longer pigeon-holed in the domain of military forward operating bases, microgrids promise to provide more reliability to critical energy consumers.”


Smart grid sensing and control will transform to low power / battery power to alleviate concerns about direct power in remote areas, predicts Sensus CEO and President Peter Mainz.


Meeting future demand

What all of the above boils down to on some level is meeting future demand.


"Utilities are looking to smart grid technologies to help overcome some of these long-term challenges around achieving a sustainable and reliable energy supply," says Derek Porter, EVP Product Management and Strategy at Ventyx. "To have truly smart grids, the intelligence in enterprise systems has to be available for controlling the grid, and the real-time and near real-time operating parameters on the grid need to be a systematic part of the enterprise information solutions."


Porter believes utilities understand that products such as smart meters and automated metering information can provide only part of the solution.


"To achieve higher returns on smart grid investments, utilities must look to and invest in comprehensive vertical solutions that combine the required technologies - information technology and operations technology - that can be used with distributed generation, PHEVs, renewable sources and new storage offerings," he says. "This allows utilities to both use existing technologies and go out on a limb for tried and true suggestions."


More from SGN's The Next 10 Years series...

The Next 10 Years according to Cisco CEO John Chambers

Getting standards down so we can move on to the good stuff

What we can (and can't) expect from regulators and policymakers

Maybe customer engagement isn't so dang important

Empowered "digital natives" become a force to reckon with

Silver Spring exec insists we need to go faster

Where we've come from (and how it shapes where we'll go next)