52. Smart Grid Beyond Meter Reading: Enhancing the Sustainability Future
Electricity generation, transmission, and distribution networks have existed for over 100 years, but it is only relatively recently that modern communications methods that we enjoy in other aspects of daily living have started being used to improve how electricity is managed across the grid. Smart Grid technology generally describes all means for bringing electricity distribution and management into the modern communications age. And this approach does not stop there. The same communications methods now being used for the electricity grid can be applied also to a vast variety of other devices all around us, such as street lights, traffic signals, parking meters, as well as those used for emergency services, and located in hospitals, airports, and so on. Handling electricity-use data flow and device management through smart technologies can significantly improve consumption efficiencies in many aspects of our lives and reduce the amount of power we must generate to meet these needs.
Silver Spring Networks has been in the business of helping utility companies around the world establish smart grid technology in their service areas for over ten years. To date, we have done this through smart meter, distribution automation, demand response, and other important technologies. As we look to the future, it is clear that our technology coverage can expand well beyond where we have focused our work to date. We are starting this new journey by thinking of our network endpoints, including electricity meters at customer locations, as sensors, where the work these sensors do could be about as diverse as our imaginations can envision. As data flows between these sensors and service-provider operations centers, huge opportunities arise for improving electricity-consumption efficiencies and reducing the need to generate electricity needlessly.
Technology advances have led to increased baud-rate speeds (up to 300 kbps with Silver Spring Gen4 products), which means that we can accommodate a broad variety of services with decreasing latency rates and increased levels of certificate-based, commerce-grade security protection using the same mesh network for everything. For example, Distribution Automation requires very low-latency levels, and yet combining this traffic with data flow to and from smart meters at home and business customer locations is becoming far easier to accomplish.
With all of the new opportunities we see ahead of us, it is clear that our journey is just beginning and will likely continue long into the foreseeable future.
And yet, even when focusing only on products and technologies that Silver Spring provides today – with 13-million end points active in our networks today -- much is being accomplished with significant advances toward both short-term and long-term sustainability goals. For example, OGE, a large utility company serving Oklahoma and western Arkansas, has signed up more than 40,000 electricity customers in their demand-side management program -- which is powered by Silver Spring -- leading to an average savings of $191 per participant and saving more than 67 megawatts of load in 2012. This will enable OGE to avoid building five coal fired peaker power plants by 2020. And, according to the Brattle Group a 5% drop in peak demand is enough to eliminate 625 peaker plants. Additionally, according to a Pacific Northwest National Laboratories report, just 2% of energy saving from conservation voltage reduction and advanced voltage control – technologies Silver Spring supports -- can reduce carbon emissions by about 59 million metric tons per year by 2030.
In January 2013, Silver Spring issued announced several new products and services and sustainability plays into these in a variety of ways.
UtilityIQ™ Demand Optimizer
Silver Spring is expanding its Demand Side Management (DSM) portfolio with the introduction of the UtilityIQ™ Demand Optimizer solution, an innovative Demand Response Management System that helps utilities manage peak load, implement real-time demand response initiatives, and optimize load across all DR programs and customer segments. Silver Spring’s end-to-end DSM portfolio helps utilities who are increasingly looking to DSM programs and technologies to increase customer satisfaction, meet more stringent regulatory requirements, reduce peak consumption, manage new sources of demand and generation, and improve their bottom lines.
Advanced Distribution Automation Solutions
Silver Spring is further extending its Distribution Automation (DA) portfolio by unveiling a Transformer Monitoring solution providing utilities real-time visibility into the performance of their distribution and substation transformers. Real-time transformer-level monitoring of temperature, current, and voltage enables utilities to pinpoint problem spots on the grid, proactively minimizing outages, and identify both technical and non-technical losses, improving energy efficiency.
Intelligent Streetlights: Smart City Solutions for the Everything Network
Silver Spring has formed a strategic partnership with Streetlight.Vision, the leader in streetlight control and monitoring software, to deliver a Smart City solution enabling operators to more efficiently and reliably operate their lighting networks while creating a city-wide IPv6-based communications and monitoring network for any other city equipment, including traffic light control, parking meters, environmental sensors, and the broader range of Smart City infrastructure. Silver Spring and Streetlight.Vision have already demonstrated the efficacy of the solutions in the field and are targeting lighting operators globally who are looking to more effectively manage their public lighting infrastructure and reduce streetlight energy consumption.
Why it should be recognized:
Creating our sustainably future covers a great deal of ground, and many needs exist that we should strive to meet. We are now living in a modern communications age, where information and communication flow are part of many aspects of our everyday lives, including the fabric of the infrastructure that surrounds us and makes what we need to get done far easier and efficient than it was for those who came before us. We can use the same technological intelligence to optimally manage how we use electricity and the network of devices that are powered by electricity. Companies such as Silver Spring are able to create their solutions by working with partners in all areas of technology, and our belief and support of open standards development helps us to engage these partners and other stakeholders, and build all solutions available into the the overall solution set that we are able to provide to our utility company customers and others as we expand beyond our traditional base.
It is clear to us that strong and material business cases are well documented for companies, regulatory agencies, legislators, and other stakeholders to join us and our partners on this journey. As just a few examples, McKinsey & Company estimates that the operational impact of advanced metering infrastructure will be more than $9 billion by 2019. They have also estimated that energy savings from voltage optimization technology (specifically CVR and Volt-VAR) to be more than $43 billion by 2019.