Greentech Media recognizes SMUD as grid innovator

Sacramento Municipal Utility District  You are leaving (SMUD) was among the 20 companies to receive the Grid Edge 20 award You are leaving for contributions to the transformation of the U.S. electrical grid.

Sponsored by GreenTech Media Research, the award highlights energy-related businesses using new products, disruptive strategies and forward-looking vision to shift our traditional, centralized grid to a more distributed, responsive system. SMUD earned the award for implementing Space-Time Insight’s You are leaving (STI) geospatial and visual analytics software to improve the analysis and management of data from its smart grid devices.

Good-news-bad-news scenario
The project is part of SMUD’s SmartSacramento initiative to improve the reliability and efficiency of the grid and to give customers more control over their energy use. The first step was the installation of 630,000 new smart meters capable of two-way wireless communication, which allowed SMUD customers to see their daily and hourly energy use on the web. The meters also enabled the utility to remotely read use, and set the stage for smarter thermostats, home energy management systems, energy-efficient smart appliances and time-of-use (TOU) rates.

Customer reaction to the installation was overwhelmingly positive. “The business case for smart meters was based on operational efficiencies rather than energy savings, but the TOU rates can drive efficiency improvements,” explained Jim Parks, SMUD program manager for energy research and development. “In the pilot project, customers on TOU or CPP [critical peak pricing] rates, or both, were able to reduce their peak energy use by 6 to 25 percent during peak periods.”

SMUD also installed dozens of other intelligent grid-connected assets to provide data on the condition and performance of equipment to improve system reliability. All that data, however, came with a downside: figuring out how to incorporate it into grid decision-making. Traditional manual operation simply could not burrow through this mountain of data to realize the benefits. It was time to automate, and SMUD chose  STI’s geospatial and visual analytics technology.

Grid planning, beyond
The software platform visualizes and coordinates data from more than 30 different systems. A large “electronic wall map” in SMUD’s Distribution Operations Center displays the synthesized data as a common operational view of grid and asset health, weather, wind and fire conditions and power supply and demand, to name a few.

The electronic wall map in SMUD's operational center gives operations staff an overview of the grid right down to cameras like the one on the Meadowview-Mack substation.
The electronic wall map in SMUD’s Distribution Operations Center gives operations staff an overview of the grid right down to cameras on grid assets like the Meadowview-Mack substation.

Managers and operators are now able to respond more quickly to outages, rapidly develop switching plans and make more informed decisions regarding equipment maintenance and investments. “This gives our operations staff the view they need of what’s happening on the grid, right down to zeroing in on cameras on substations or loading on individual feeders,” said Parks.

In addition to tying together many utility operations, the platform includes data links with state and federal firefighting agencies and water districts for coordinating emergency responses to fires and floods. It also pulls weather data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the utility’s fifteen weather stations. Managers can turn data on temperature forecasts into predictions of coming peak power demand, or transform wind-speed readings into dynamic line ratings.

Now that situational intelligence technology has proven its value in grid operations, other SMUD departments are showing an interest. The utility has launched a second phase of the system to meet some of these demands. Geospatial and visual analytics could be valuable for neighborhood design and transformer loading, customer demographics for new programs, vegetation analysis or understanding the impact of electric vehicles on single circuits. “Some of the departments have found uses for it that we didn’t anticipate, while some of the planned uses were less effective than we expected,” Parks acknowledged.

Stakeholders select awardees
Grid Edge 20 recognizes vision and innovation in the energy services and utility industries. A network of energy industry stakeholders, including the team of analysts at GreenTech Media Research nominate and vote on the awardees. Final award recipients were selected with input from Greentech Media’s Grid Edge Executive Council. Since its launch in the fall of 2013, the council has grown to more than 75 member companies. Duke Energy, Embertec, Enphase Energy, Electric Power Research Institute, SunEdison and 3M are the newest members.

Many of the awardees will be attending or presenting at Grid Edge Live 2015You are leaving June 23-25, in San Diego. The conference covers issues surrounding grid modernization and customer and business model transformation.

Source: GreenTech Media via Public Power Daily, 4/30/15

New tool from DOE helps utilities evaulate cybersecurity

Cybersecurity is an issue that is on everyone’s mind today, so utilities and grid operators may be interested in a new software program that enables them to assess their cybersecurity capabilities. The Electricity Subsector Cybersecurity Capability Maturity Model (ES-C2M2) includes a cybersecurity self-evaluation survey tool, which looks at situational awareness, along with threat and vulnerability management, to allow a utility an internal option for the cybersecurity discussion. Utilities can also use ES-C2M2’s series of gradual assessments in platform areas to build a complete picture for prioritizing future cybersecurity actions and investments.

The Energy Department (DOE) developed the model in a public/private partnership formed in 2011, and launched the first version in May 2012. The White House approached DOE with a challenge to develop capabilities to manage dynamic threats and understand grid cybersecurity. The objectives for the model development included the desire to strengthen cybersecurity capabilities, along with the need to enable consistent evaluation and benchmarking, share knowledge and benefits and help prioritize actions and investments.

More than 77 utilities—cooperatives, international, investor-owned utilities, public power and regional transmission organizations—have downloaded ES-C2M2’s assessment tool. The DOE went on-site with 17 industry volunteers to walk through the model, using feedback from them to make changes in the next version. Comments have led to additional maturity indicator levels, performance metrics and measurement and informative materials.

DOE developed the model specifically for the electricity industry with Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Carnegie Mellon University and industry stakeholders. Utilities can download ES-C2M2 or contact DOE for more information. If you decide to explore this tool to improve your cybersecurity, don’t forget to share what you learn with Energy Services. Source: energybiz, 3/20/13

Creating a compelling home energy audit

Jacqueline Ducharme, Xcel Energy, with Darlene Luca, Apogee Interactive, and Paul Kriescher, Lightly Treading

Xcel is looking for a way to create a more engaging format with a higher conversion rate. Currently, their conversion rate is 17 percent.

Program partner Lightly Treading looked into software and found the EnergyInsights audit program by Apogee International. The software is pending Best Testing certified.

Pilot launched
Xcel negotiated a pilot of the software with Apogee. The pilot is taking place from Sept. 1 through Dec. 31 of this year. About 400 audits will be performed with the software, while Xcel auditors continue to do traditional audits for comparison. Xcel has completed 15 audits so far.

Xcel learned that auditors need a little more time to scale the learning curve. Two of the auditors are Xcel staff auditors, and three are contractor auditors. Some customers don’t want retrofit contractors doing the audit, because they want impartiality; others want a one-stop shop. The program allows for both.

The software is easy-to-use for auditors collecting data in the field. This has a very practical aspect. The homeowners appreciate the report format—it is less technical and provides the information they need. The report is being updated to be more Colorado-specific: construction types tend to be regional, for example, and evaporative cooling is used in the West.

EnergyInsights can be loaded onto a laptop for use in the field. Customer data can be pulled into the program. It gives feedback on heating and cooling, lighting, other major appliances.

The report is the most engaging piece. Homeowners get it on-sight, and gives them the top “to-do” list. It tells them what they can save annually by making these changes. The homeowner can move forward on recommended steps. Xcel also gets a home performance report.  There is room for infrared photos, as well.