On June 3-4, 2015, the brightest minds in electric power distribution will gather in Brussels for the Smart Grid Event 2015.
Stakeholders from many sectors of the power industry will gather to discuss the future of the electric grid as the world transitions to a cleaner and more sustainable energy future.
If you want to hear Paul Alvarez, president of the Wired Group and one of over 20 speakers at the Smart Grid Event 2015, get excited, just start talking about incentives in electrical distribution. Along with the excitement comes a measure of frustration. “Why aren’t more news organizations reporting on these issues?” he wonders.
His frustration is shared by many in the power distribution industry and this year organizations from around the world will gather to discuss their own successes and frustrations in implementing smart grid technologies at the Smart Grid Event 2015 held on June 3-4 in Brussels, Belgium.
What first becomes apparent to those outside the power industry is the sheer scale of the challenge. Jeroen Scheer, manager of Energy Transition & New Business Models at Alliander IT, and another one of the event’s speakers envisions the energy systems of tomorrow as a giant marketplace.
“For me it is all about creating and operating a Smart Energy Ecosystem,” he said in a recent interview. “Where various market parties (including prosumers, system operators, market operators, retailers and traders) participate.”
Stakeholders will gather at the Smart Grid Event 2015 for two days in June to talk about what that energy marketplace of the future might look like and how to pull all of the pieces together. The challenge isn’t just building an intelligent switching system; it’s integrating renewable energy sources with old style power plants, managing a mountain of usage data to guide intelligent switches and, if that wasn’t enough of a challenge, supporters also have to educate both utilities and end users on the benefits of smart grid technologies.
Pierre Marlard, E&U Market Head at Atos, points out that, in the energy market of the future, information flows both ways with the consumer, which he calls a “prosumer”, taking a more active role in energy decisions. Power industry experts tend to lump end users into what they call LV, or Low Voltage, networks. “Right now, the vast majority of Distribution Grids do not see anything at LV level, they fire and forget!” says Marlard. In the future consumers may be rewarded with lower rates by changing their habits of energy usage and that means feeding consumers real-time data on rates.
At least in the United States, implementing variable electrical rates and encouraging consumers to change when and how much electricity they use is going to be a tough sell on both sides of the table. “Right now most utilities are incentivized to sell you as much electricity as possible,” says Paul Alvarez. He points out that up to half the cost of consumer power bills is actually covering the maintenance of the delivery systems, which is also where the local power company makes its profit margin. Consumers using less electricity are also contributing less to the fixed costs of keeping up the transmission system. But shifting the fixed costs to consumers, through something like a connect charge, can shift those costs to the poorest consumers on the LV network and discourage users from implementing power saving strategies.
Alvarez sees the structuring of price incentives to balance the needs of the electric company and the consumer as the key to the energy market of the future.
Another key to driving both the distribution systems and making an electrical market more approachable to consumers is usage data. Turns out the energy marketplace of tomorrow is going to depend very heavily on a mountain of data. As Pierre Marlard points out, most people would be surprised to learn that the power company has little idea what happens to electricity after it leaves your neighborhood substation. While they know the total demand in a certain area, they don’t understand the energy usage patterns of individual homeowners. One piece of that end user data puzzle is the smart meter.
Initially smart meters were installed mainly for convenience and efficiency. With smart meters the power company no longer needs to send someone around to individually read your power usage or send a crew out to turn the power on and off. But smart meters are capable of so much more and will be core components when it comes to predicting energy demand. Convincing the public that household privacy will be respected will be critical to consumer acceptance of an expanded role for smart meters.
The Smart Grid Event 2015 is the brainchild of engineers Rik Luiten and Ron Visser, who put their own funds into organizing the event. “We felt it was important to develop a forum to discuss these challenges,” says Rik Luiten. “We want to provide people a place to meet and exchange ideas. Not just online but also in real life.”
The pair is drawing on the online community Smart Metering & Smart Grids, founded in 2008 that today boasts over 25,000 industry professionals from around the world. More information on the Smart Grid Event 2015 can be found on its website at http://www.smartgridevent.com/.
Contact: Rik Luiten, Ron Visser & Patricia Smits
Phone: +31 (0)6 27 22 72 04
LinkedIn: Smart Metering & Smart Grids
Event location: Hotel & Conference Centre Holliday Inn, Brussels, Europe