A technology that has made rapid strides in recent times is the smart grid; this is an electrical grid (an interconnected network) that is used to get data from smart meters and other electric devices to act on the gathered information. The technology allows for response in real-time to events while reducing energy use.
When used by electric generation companies, the information obtained from grids that is sent over high-voltage transmission lines, allows the collection of consumption, diagnostic, and status data for billing, troubleshooting, and analyzing purposes.
Smart grids also provide advanced metering, demand response, distribution and substation automation, transmission modernization, asset management, and renewable energy integration data analytics. Due to these factors, the popularity of smart grids has increased dramatically; in fact, nowadays, the market for smart grid data analytics is rapidly developing: Cumulative worldwide spending is expected to increase to more than $400 billion by 2020, as a result of current investments in smart grid metering equipment.
By deploying smart grids, energy companies can monitor, analyze, and synchronize their networks to improve reliability, availability and efficiency. Such a grid provides the responsiveness needed to face today’s energy challenges and tomorrow’s needs.
One such company with one of the largest installed bases and most smart meters successfully deployed is Echelon Corporation, a company that develops, markets and delivers a proven, open standard, multi-application energy control networking platform for smart grids. They are the smart metering market leader in Europe, according to research firm Frost & Sullivan (News - Alert). In Austria alone, for example, it is involved in 200,000 smart meter projects.
According to Renew Grids’ website, which covers renewable energy transmission, conservation, distribution and smart grid technologies, Echelon Corp. (News - Alert) and its partner Kapsch Smart Energy (an end-to-end smart metering and smart grid solutions provider that is a subsidiary of the Kapsch Group) have won several key pilots with Austrian utilities Wien Energie, IKB and Steiermark.
Driven by a new Austrian energy law that requires utilities to achieve specific grid modernization goals by 2019, the pilots represent potential future orders of nearly 3.5 million smart meters and Networked Energy Services (NES) software platform licenses. The project will develop in large scale in 2014; yet, the utility companies are expected to begin the roll out of smart meters throughout Austria in high volume in 2015, as reported by Renew Grid.
The Echelon NES platform is a complex system of hardware and software components for managing and reading smart readers. It is based on open framework for the smart grid that provides access to smart devices via a Web services-based network operating system running on an IP networking infrastructure.
Within the NES system, each meter provides a comprehensive set of energy services. For example, “automated two-way meter reading, power quality measurement, remote electronic disconnect and local physical reconnect, distribution system asset optimization, outage detection and restoration management, blackout and brownout detection, comprehensive revenue protection, real-time direct load control, and more,” Echelon specified.
The Kapsch/Echelon pilots, which is designed to fulfill the EU Energy Efficiency Directive and Austria's demanding expectations for meter regulations and data security, will use Kapsch’s high-performance end-to-end smart metering software (and smart grid solutions) for bidirectional transmission of data which will run on Echelon smart meters to give “utility companies greater control over their grids." In addition, it will fulfill the minimum requirements set forth by the Austrian energy law for energy utilities to work toward compliance and, ultimately, provide future opportunities for many high-value grid applications, stated Christian Schober, CEO of Kapsch Smart Energy.
Lastly, the smart reader pilots will enhance “the overall safety, efficiency and reliability of [the] energy grid” declared Michael Anderson (News - Alert), Echelon's senior vice president and general manager, Grid Modernization. It will also provide “tools for implementing robust grid modernization programs with benefits for both consumers and utilities,” he concluded.
Edited by Alisen Downey