Utilities: Get ready for your next convergence -- smart grids and smart cities



Quick Take:  Fierce SmartGrid has posted a thoughtful interview with Steven Collier, Vice President of Business Development at Milsoft Utility Solutions. If you are aware of the work we have been doing over at the Smart Cities Council, then you know I'm already a big believer in the convergence of smart grids and smart cities.


It's not a trend utilities can afford to ignore. As Collier explains, it will change what is demanded from utilities. And how soon it is demanded. - Jesse Berst


The urbanization of the world will profoundly change the fundamentals of the world's cities and the electric grids that serve them. Cities more than ever require economical, reliable, sustainable energy. "Unfortunately, it has become apparent that the traditional electric grid model is less and less capable of meeting these requirements," Collier said.


Instead, a new grid model will emerge to meet the needs of cities. The old centralized approach will give way to a distributed model. Even today, Collier says, there are already more than 20 times as many distributed facilities as traditional, centralized plants. Cities in the developing world may leapfrog straight to this decentralized model, since they don't have the legacy of a centralized grid to worry about.


"Modern (smart) cities and modern (smart) grids that serve them will be symbiotic and will likely share electronics, telecommunications and information technologies. They may even share in the production, storage and management of energy," he said.


Indeed, cities that own their own municipal power systems are leading the way in the integration of smart grids and renewable energy. Collier cites the example of a solar garden. The municipal utility builds and operates a large PV array. Consumers can then lease or subscribe to the output of one or more panels.


Collier gives several examples of the ways a smart grid in the smart city can be synergistic. They can:

·      Coordinate energy consumption to reduce peak power demands

·      Correlate traffic light monitoring to determine which traffic lights (and other critical facilities) have been knocked out to do and outage

·      Coordinate the deployment of municipal broadband that can serve both citizens and the smart grid

·      Collaborate to evaluate the energy use and efficiency at every city facility


Collier believes we are just beginning to imagine what will be possible. Today we are talking about improvements in the things we already know about. But "what about the quantum leaps, the things that we don't know about?" he asks. "Every day is day one for the smart grid, for the smart city."


Jesse Berst is the founder and Chief Analyst of SGN and Chairman of the Smart Cities Council, an industry coalition.


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