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THE SMART GRID PROPHECY

For years, industry publications have touted Smart Grid cost-benefit study results that show Smart Grid investments paying for themselves with reduced utility costs. The widely quoted report published by the Electric Power Research Institute, “Estimating… read more »

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CUSTOMER BILLING SERVICE OPTIONS

As competition among electric utilities heats up and additional retailers enter the market with electricity offerings, a noticeable trend has emerged: a heightened focus on the customer experience. Larger conglomerates and smaller providers alike have… read more »

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THE POWER OF MICROGRIDS

Navigant Research forecasts that the worldwide microgrid market will grow to more than 4,000 megawatts in capacity by 2020. However, policymakers must emphasize standards and create a regulatory environment that supports this growth.

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THE DIGITAL SUBSTATION UTOPIA

Electric utilities have long considered digital substations an insubstantial concept: an ideal vision of all-knowing substations networked into an intelligent grid. However, technological innovations have slowly emerged in the past few decades, consequently, transforming this… read more »

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ADVANCED ANALYTICS

Recent technological and economic events are poised to transform the electric utility industry. Described as “game changers” by industry thought-leaders, these “disruptive challenges” stem from a convergence of factors. 1 Distributed energy resources (DER) and… read more »

Smart Grid

BIG DATA ADVANTAGES

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Currently, modern electric utilities are facing an avalanche of new data. Each new system deployed presents a tremendous amount of information that can provide great value to the utility. Unfortunately, the tools available to work with this information are often rudimentary and create difficulties to take advantage of the potential value “locked up” in this data.

For example, a modern advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) system can collect meter readings much more frequently than what is actually necessary for basic customer billing. Current systems can collect meter readings every hour, or even more frequently, if desired.

In addition, modern residential meters can measure voltages, move power flows forward and backwards, count power blinks, report outages, and detect a variety of operational problems, including tampering. Modern polyphase meters can measure power factors, voltage balance between phases, harmonic content, and reactive power, among others. The AMI head end collects all the aforementioned information, but utilities are having difficulties using the collected data.

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State of Industry

Electricity Today Jan/Feb/Mar 2016 Issue, now on-line

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Catch a glimpse of the Jan/Feb/Mar edition of Electricity Today Magazine, the authority of information for the North American transmission and distribution (T&D) sector.

State of Industry

2015: The Year on Fast Forward

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The year 2015 has come and gone so quickly. Those who work in the power industry will concur that time might move faster than the speed of light (figuratively), but a lot still can happen within a 365-day time frame—and much did happen in 2015. Here are a few industry highlights.

GRIDEX SECURITY EXERCISE
In November 2015, the North American Reliability Corporation (NERC) hosted GridEx III, a bi-annual simulated cyber and physical attack on the power grid. Participating electric utilities, regulators, and other industry players across North America responded to these coordinated security threats and incidents through a series of exercises. The purpose of these exercises is to strengthen crisis communications relationships and provide feedback for lessons learned.

GridEx III had a variety of objectives including (1) exercising crisis response and recovery processes, (2) improving communications internally and externally, (3) identifying lessons learned, and (4) engaging senior leadership. According to NERC, the GridEx III report, which highlights event happenings, will be available in early 2016.

OBAMA’S CLEAN POWER PLAN
According to Canadian Energy Law, the electricity sector is the primary source of carbon emissions (roughly 33 percent annually) in the United States. In an attempt to remedy this problem, in August 2015, U.S. President Barrack Obama announced his Clean Power Plan, a blueprint that requires the country’s power plants to reduce their carbon emissions. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Obama’s plan contains tough, yet achievable, standards for power plants as well as customized goals for individual states to reduce the carbon pollution that is causing climate change. The White House website states that the standards set within the Clean Power Plan will reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 32 percent by 2030. Additionally, the U.S. government expects that the Clean Power Plan will lead to 30 percent more renewable energy generation in that same year.

A WORLD WITHOUT COAL
Canadian Energy Law points out that Canada’s electricity sector accounts for roughly 10 percent of total carbon emissions. Justin Trudeau, the country’s new Prime Minister, recently green lit his government’s promised climate change agenda. Ontario became the first province to become coal free in 2014. In 2015, Alberta announced its plans to follow suit. The province plans to be coal free by 2025. Likewise, the state of California passed a bill in September 2015, which requires investors to divest $476 billion (U.S.) of their coal holdings by summer 2017. SaskPower announced in October that natural gas now surpasses coal as the number one source of electricity in that province.

RENEWABLES ON THE RISE
In September 2015, the Toronto Star reported that the rate of job growth in Canada’s clean energy sector is outpacing that of every other sector. Additionally, in the first half of 2015, renewables accounted for 70 percent of all new generation placed into service in the United States. A tracking report released by Clean Energy Canada in September revealed that investment in clean energy generation in Canada approached $10.7 billion (CAD) in 2014—an 88 percent increase from 2013.

ONTARIO MERGERS & ACQUISITIONS
Ontario is in the process of merging many of its local distribution companies (LDCs). To date, in 2015, Hydro One, the province’s transmission utility, legally closed the purchase of Haldimand County Utilities and Woodstock Hydro. Other provincial distribution utilities PowerStream, Enersource, Horizon Utilities, and Hydro One Brampton are also in the process of merging into one utility. The Hydro One Brampton selloff is part of the Ontario government’s plans to privatize Hydro One. At the beginning of 2015, the Ontario Power Authority also merged with the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO). The merged provincial crown corporation, which retained the IESO name, is responsible for operating Ontario’s power grid as well as the electricity market in the province. Could it be that a new, more privatized, Ontario Hydro is on the horizon?

THE BOTTOM LiNE
I predict in 2016 that Smart Grid technologies, cyber and physical security standards, aging infrastructure, storm hardening, worker attrition, as well as additional mergers and acquisitions will be at the forefront. What do you think?

Overhead T&D

Outage Management Review: When the Lights Go Out

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The occurrence of severe weather events is on the rise at an alarming rate. According to the Insurance Bureau of Canada, extreme weather events that used to happen once every 40 years now occur as frequently as every six years in some regions; severe weather is expected to become even more frequent over the next four decades due to the effects of climate change. Read more

Overhead T&D

Outage Management Review: Outage Intelligence

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The permeation of intelligence into the medium-voltage network is continuing apace, bringing the reality of the Smart Grid ever closer. One target of the Smart Grid is to improve service continuity by recognizing, locating, and isolating faults as quickly as possible.

Concurrently, the amount of equipment taken out of service should be minimized in order to keep energy provision to the consumer at a maximum. Although faults and outages have always occurred in the power network, their frequency has increased with the growth of renewable energy sources connecting to the power grid. In order to mitigate the effects of faults and outages, improve continuity and quality of electrical service, and increase the network energy efficiency while minimizing losses, it becomes necessary for network monitoring equipment to work in real time and intelligently.

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