October 2004

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"Gridwise" ...merging Information Technology and Energy
… merging Information Technology and Energy

 John J. "Jack" Mc Gowan, CEM
Energy Control Inc
Contributing Editor

as published 

September Issue

In recent years EUN has postulated many variations on the energy industry future. This discussion defines energy future as “Gridwise”, a topic that will recur as EUN chronicles the new development. Gridwise refers to the national electricity system and architecture addresses information technology, networking and the Internet. Gridwise is an initiative to stimulate development and adoption of an intelligent energy system that enables more effective use of the U.S. Electric System. This will result in significant opportunities for energy efficiency, but of equal importance it can result in a more reliable Grid. Gridwise is being sponsored by the new Department of Energy Office of Electricity Transmission and Distribution (DOE O-ETD). It is the first new office created within the DOE in years, which demonstrates the importance of this issue. Pacific Northwest National Labs has acted on behalf of DOE to select a team of national experts for the Gridwise Architecture Board. EUN readers will be able to stay informed on Gridwise through this author, who has been invited to sit on the Board.

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Gridwise...merging Information Technology and EnergyIt is not a surprise to many EUN readers that August 14, 2003 is a significant electricity industry date. That was the date of the east coast blackout, an event that has motivated extensive discussion in the media and on Capital Hill about the need for electricity reliability. Those who have been in this business for decades are again seeing the telltale signs of crisis thinking about energy. Syndicated news typically only reports on energy when gasoline prices spike or if there are major disruptions. Widespread focus on energy issues is not bad however, because it can spur the kind of savings that were achieved in the 1970’s and 1980’s. Gridwise holds just that type of potential but more, just as the Internet has had an unprecedented impact on home and work life, Gridwise could transform the energy business, as we know it today.

The goals of Gridwise are lofty but the opportunity is substantial. Consider that at any one point in time the U.S. only has demand for about 75% of its generating capacity, and yet there are plans to spend $450 billion to build new power plants over the next twenty years. Clearly, new power plants will be necessary because enough electric transmission and distribution does not exist in all localities, pointing up the need for a new DOE O-ETD office. This office is also the logical place to center the Gridwise effort because an intelligent grid could make better use of existing generation, thus delaying or avoiding new power plants. Early estimates are that wiser use of the Grid could save 10% of that $450 billion and another $10 billion in user energy costs.

What might an intelligent Grid look like? An Energy Online column earlier this year discussed a good example in a project done by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and presented at the CABA / Clasma XML Symposium. This monitoring, control and information management technology project was implemented in five large commercial buildings. Automated demand response was achieved by sending an XML-based electric price signal to building control and energy information systems. Technical development and software programming at each site implemented a range of strategies like unloading chillers and enabling day lighting to reduce electrical demand. This fully automated demand response test was done in California sites that ranged by building type, and had integrated systems for real-time building automation and energy management. System strategies were executed when an Internet-based price signal message was received. These Web-based price increase signals were fictitious, but allowed for evaluation of automatic real-time demand response strategies. The project was an overwhelming success, with reductions of up to 50 KW in demand at each building during test periods. Gridwise envisions that this type of functionality is just the beginning, an integrated, intelligent Grid offers limitless possibilities.

[an error occurred while processing this directive] Bringing the information age to the Grid has three goals. It (Gridwise) will allow utilities to avoid spending billions to build new power plants by making more efficient and effective use of the existing electric transmission system or “Grid”. Gridwise will also help reduce energy use, and cost, through smart energy technology, and possibly spawn new, creative rate structures. Finally, Gridwise will accelerate development of an entirely new industry, electronic “e” energy services. E-energy services could include a host of services for energy efficiency, facility management and intelligent buildings. Gridwise goals straddle supply and demand side, as well as the need for new sources of energy. There is little debate that the greatest opportunity for a new energy source is still efficiency. Yet there has never been a way to harness and dispatch efficiency to reduce electric use at a specific time. Smart systems to manage energy use in buildings, campuses and residences would make this possible through an electronic information exchange between utilities and customers. E-energy services are already developing, and the focus is not on products per se, but on new solutions and services enabled by smart, networked products that are deeply integrated into an equally new real-time enterprise. Electricity deregulation across the United States spurred a proliferation of these energy service offerings, as well as communications and networking standards to further the application of information technology to the Grid.

Web Services use information exchanges between utilities and users to implement efficiency strategies with smart devices or distributed generation. A major Gridwise benefit is that utilities will be able to balance investments in efficiency with electric generation, and be able to curb the demand to build new power plants. The Gridwise Board sees this as the opportune time to leverage Information Technology to reduce energy consumption on an automated basis, and through this effort to improve the reliability of the U.S. electric system. Reliability may be the catalyst to make all of this possible because coupling building automation with distributed generation can create a more robust and resilient grid.

Finally it is important to note that the Gridwise Architecture Board was not formed to create new system technologies, but rather to act as a facilitator for adoption of existing offering. This includes devices and Internet or Web Services to optimize energy use. The key at this time is to understand what technologies can be readily adopted to create a real-time Grid that is reliable, while offering opportunities to strategically reduce energy consumption and cost. Of equal importance will be facilitating demonstration projects to accelerate the adoption of Gridwise technologies. Gridwise is a truly a concept that’s time has come.

About the Author

Mc Gowan is President of Energy Control Inc., an Energy Service Company and System Integrator. He is the author of 5 books including "Direct Digital Control" on Fairmont Press. The Association of Energy Engineers named him 1997 "International Energy Professional of the Year and admitted him to the "International Energy Managers Hall of Fame" in 2003. Mc Gowan sits on the Energy User News Technical Advisory Board and is a contributing editor with www.automatedbuildings.com.


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