Technology

What’s driving evolution of the Energy IoT?

 By Andrew Burger

News of developments related to the fast emerging Internet of Things (IoT) have been coming hard and fast this past year. What’s driving all the media attention? More importantly, how much real substance lies behind all the news and hype, and what dangers, as well as benefits and rewards, may lie ahead? Power and energy industries and markets are undergoing a groundbreaking transformation, a fundamental reconfiguration of centralized, fossil fuel-fired power generation, transmission and distribution to distributed clean and renewable energy resources. In doing so, the energy and power sector is seen as a driving force for IoT R&D and commercial applications, giving rise to the “Energy Internet of Things.” Andrew Burger describes how and why the Energy Internet of Things has become a strategic focal point for government, business public interest group and community leaders…

Word of developments regarding the Internet of Things (IoT) has been coming hard and fast this past year. What’s driving all the industry and media attention? More to the point, how much real substance lies behind all the news and hype, and what dangers, as well as benefits and rewards, may lie ahead?

Utilities are undergoing a transformation, joining with young, innovative tech-driven market entrants in a bid to keep up with the rapid pace of technological advancements and market reforms. Generally resistant to change and extremely protective of their vested interests, they’re playing a leading role in building the so-called ¨Energy Internet of Things.”

Utilities as Agents of Change

Following in the wake of well over a decade of developments, utilities are finding they can boost efficiency, reduce emissions and lower costs by taking advantage of leading edge IoT and Cloud services platforms. Applications are broad and deep: demand response management (DRM), automated metering infrastructure (AMI) and distributed energy resource management (DERM) key among them.

Contrary to what may be popular belief, utilities are considered early adopters of IoT and advanced computing technology. Utility smart meter and AMI projects and grid connecting distributed renewable energy resources were among the first instances of large-scale Energy IoT deployments, for example.

North America’s utilities “are taking real steps up to the Cloud,” Oracle Utilities states in “On Cloud Now: Cloud Technologies are Here for Utilities,” market research carried out with Zpryme in which more than 100 utility executives and directors completed a 22-question online survey.

“We believe two of the leading factors in the adoption of cloud and Internet of Things (IoT) technologies by utilities are asset performance assessment and consumer energy technology integration,” Oracle Utilities VP of Industry Strategy Bradley Williams explained in an email response to questions.

“Utilities can embrace IoT and consumer energy technologies to support strategic interaction with edge-of-grid devices in order to monitor and manage asset health and to optimize the distribution grid. Further, utilities can support consumer energy technologies as a grid resource to keep costs competitive with alternative resources.”

We believe two of the leading factors in the adoption of cloud and Internet of Things (IoT) technologies by utilities are asset performance assessment and consumer energy technology integration...

Consolidated Edison and New York’s Emerging Energy IoT

Consolidated Edison’s strategic AMI infrastructure project highlights the degree to which major North American utilities are leveraging IoT and Cloud technology. Two of the holding company’s principal regulated utilities – Con Edison and O&R Utilities – intend to roll out more than 5 million smart meters (3.9 million electric and 1.3 million gas modules) across their respective New York City and metro area service territories over the next six years pending final approval from the New York State Public Service Commission.

Con Edison is moving forward with Phase 2 of its AMI implementation plan, having completed Phase 1 implementation planning in 2015. In Phase 2, the AMI project team aims to roll out an IT platform and design a communications system by year-end 2016.

Towards that end, Silver Springs Networks on February 8 announced that it had been chosen to supply the secure communications network that will serve as part of the ¨neural network¨ that connects all the various components of Con Ed’s AMI infrastructure.

Examples of Internet of Things in Smart Cities (blog.smartcitylabs.io)

Benefits for Customers, Communities and Corporations

A Edison spokesperson cited customer engagement and participation in power generation, distribution and use among the key benefits the utility expects to realize:

  • Through automation, the company will know when a customer is out of service. Getting this information sooner will mean faster restoration for the customer.
  • Customers will get detailed information on their energy consumption, meaning they’ll have insight into their usage patterns. They can use this information to help manage their usage/bills.
  • Customers will get the convenience of not having to schedule appointments and have people enter their homes to read their meters.
  • There is an environmental benefit by eliminating the meter readers’ car trips.The meters will enable broader enrollment in demand respond programs. DR reduces peak usage and can save ratepayers money on capital projects. Reducing usage at times of high demand reduces carbon emissions from older peaking plants.
  • The usage data will enable the development of new utility and third-party products and incentive programs to help customers manage their usage.

“Having real-time information from smart meters is the catalyst for consumers and utility service providers to reduce energy consumption, increase grid reliability, and reduce carbon emissions from smart DR and efficiency services, but more importantly to accelerate the deployment of customer-enabled microgrids which include distributed energy resources (solar and energy storage) to enable consumers to become ‘prosumers’ of energy. This is the next wave of the Grid-Edge revolution,” David Cohen, a pioneering distributed energy systems developer turned serial entrepreneur from Colorado-based Evolution 7 Labs commented in response to an email inquiry.

MUST READ: The emerging “Energy IoT” by Andrew Burger

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about the author
Andrew Burger
Andrew Burger has been reporting on energy, technology, political economy, climate and the environment for a variety of online media properties for over five years.