Putting a global lens on smart grid differences


By Liz Enbysk

SGN Managing Editor


Earlier this week DNV KEMA released results of its study looking into continental differences in smart grid demonstration projects. Two things stood out for us:

1.     Europeans see the smart grid as the precursor to the "energy transition" - the transition to a carbon-neutral world.

2.     By contrast, in the U.S. we have been more motivated by "customer empowerment" and demand response.


We thought it might be interesting to take a look at a few smart grid projects that were on our radar through that lens.


Bluebonnet Electric Coop just launched a free mobile app to give its 65,000 residential and commercial users in Central Texas fast, simple access to accounts and provides valuable tools to help monitor and manage energy use. The cooperative says it's one of only a handful of energy providers in the country that offers members and customers access to their accounts via their smartphones (Apple iPhones and Google Androids initially). The mobile app allows members to track daily electric consumption, pay bills, report outages and receive important and helpful information directly on their phones. Users can also choose to receive alerts covering a number of issues â€" spikes in daily usage and if their monthly bill exceeds a budgeted amount. The app is interactive, allowing users to report outages and provide feedback to Bluebonnet directly from the app. >> Customer empowerment


Conergy's first plant in Spain is a solar installation on the roof of a Barcelona restaurant - it's part of a pilot project to have the restaurant achieve grid parity with its own consumption. In others words, explains Luis Jiménez Gutierrez, Managing Director of Conergy Spain, " The solar sector is moving away from an investment-driven market towards a genuine energy market, where the important criteria are availability of electricity and the price of every kilowatt hour. With this project, we can show very clearly that solar power is already competitive today, especially for businesses and companies that can consume the solar energy they generate themselves during daytime. In this scenario, the objective is no longer for the plant to be as large as possible but for it to be matched precisely to the customer in order to optimize electricity generation and consumption behavior.” >> Energy transitioning




The University of Washington campus in Seattle is taking part in the massive $178 million stimulus-funding Pacific Northwest Smart Grid Demonstration project to, among other things, determine if more knowledge and control over their energy consumption will motivate students to reduce it. According to the Seattle Times, the University of Washington is Seattle City Light's biggest customer, paying about $1 million a month for electricity. In addition to energy-monitoring devices in dorm rooms, the project involves installing 235 electrical meters on the campus where before there had been just seven. Norm Menter, the UW's energy-conservation manager told the Times that as part of the demonstration, the school picked five campus buildings that will be set up to "talk" to the regional power system, allowing the building's electricity use to be automatically adjusted based on the cost of power. He expects the school can save at least $350,000 a year in electricity costs, maybe more. >> Customer empowerment


The remote Pacific islands of Tokelau - population 1,500 - have reportedly become the first territory in the world to generate all of their electricity from solar, ditching the expensive diesel generators they had previously relied on for power. The small islands are located between Hawaii and New Zealand in the South Pacific. The project was directed by Powersmart Solar, New Zealand’s largest solar power company. An AlertNet report has Mika Perez, Tokelau’s director of economic development, natural resources and the environment, calling the project both one of cost-savings and a commitment to environmental sustainability.  "Tokelau will take the lead in harnessing the sun to provide renewable energy, and other countries will look at us and know that we are doing something about it, and they should do their part,” Perez said. >> Energy transitioning


Do you think there are other distinctions in how various parts of the world approach the smart grid? Use the Talk Back comment form below to share your thoughts.


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