Ed’s note: DISTRIBUTECH kicked off with winners and site visits


Yesterday utilities across the United States were recognized at DISTRIBUTECH International for their best practices in consumer engagement.

An initiative of the Smart Energy Consumer Collaborative (SECC) these utilities were recognised for successful programmes, products and strategies in six categories.

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The winners of the 2020 Best Practices Awards are:

  • ComEd – Product Innovation Award – for the Bronzeville Community Microgrid that’s providing increased sustainability and resilience to the Bronzeville community and the broader service territory.
  • CPS Energy – Culture Transformation Award – for the People First philosophy that has reinforced the utility’s focus on its customers, community and employees.
  • National Grid – Consumer Engagement Award – for its first-of-its-kind online solar marketplace that’s helping consumers learn about and confidently purchase solar and storage.
  • Austin Energy – Underserved Markets Award – for its energy efficiency programs that are helping multifamily renters and lower-income consumers save on their energy bills.
  • Puget Sound Energy – Consumer Education Award – for its Up & Go Electric campaign that’s effectively educating consumers about the benefits of driving an electric vehicle.
  • Pepco/Delmarva Power – SMB Engagement Award – for the Small Business Energy Savings Programme that is helping small business owners save on their energy bills.

Find out more about other leaders and projects who have been recognized for leading the energy industry as part of the Global Power and Energy Elites

Patty Durand, President and CEO of the SECC said: “Electricity providers have made progress in becoming more customer-centric, but there’s more work to be done to meet the needs of today’s consumers. These winners showcase exemplary consumer-focused innovation, and we hope that they will pave the way for other stakeholders to follow.”

This was just one of the programme events and announcements coming out of the largest distribution event in North America, currently running in San Antonio, Texas.

Host utility, CPS Energy opened up its combo facility to a tech tour of DISTRIBUTECH International attendees. The solar-storage site is located well away from downtown at a secluded site near a substation and a testing facility for the Southwest Research Institute. CPS and SWRI are working together to learn the limits of battery technology.

“We don’t know what the next solution will be,” said James Boston, project director for CPS’ new 5MW solar, 10MWh energy storage combination, which became operational in 2019. “We have to look at all the avenues.”

“Although renewables solve one problem, when it comes to carbon, it also creates another challenge,” he said.

Says Rod Walton, Content Director, Clarion Energy: “The reality is that the sun generates its greatest photovoltaic potential in the late morning and early afternoon when customer demand is the lowest. But it is not operating at peak when people are home and using devices and appliances at their highest levels.

“While the solar plus storage system works to smooth out that imbalance, for CPS Energy, making the financial case for the $16 million project also necessitates exploring other potential revenue resources. Thus, the testing of the project seeks opportunities in solar shifting, price shifting and fast frequency response.”

Company announcements

Landis+Gyr unveiled the future of advanced metering by introducing Revelo, the next generation of electric meters with leading-edge grid sensing technology.

The Revelo metering platform redefines electric meters as grid sensors capable of providing new levels of awareness and insight. 

Revelo provides insights that positively impact consumers and grid operators. High-resolution sensing, based on streaming waveform data, are said to pinpoint grid anomalies that impact reliability in real-time, creating a more resilient and safer grid. Revelo will also provide consumers with unprecedented visibility into their energy use and pave the way for sustainable energy options.

Greenbird is making its first foray into the United States at this year’s DISTRIBUTECH and is showcasing its Utilihive digital integration hub and displaying its use cases from around the world. The event marks a milestone for Greenbird as it expands its international presence in the global energy community.

Greenbird’s CEO, Thorsten Heller said: “With such a rapidly changing energy landscape, this is an exciting time to be talking to US power utilities. US utilities were early adopters of smart meter technology and many are already rolling out second-generation meters, paving the way to intelligent grids and Smart Cities.

“US smart meter penetration is estimated to reach 81% by 2024. The increased volume of data this will bring offers huge opportunities for innovation. But this is only possible if utilities can access ‘good’ data that is freely available within their organization. We’re looking forward to showcasing how Utilihive has been used by utilities around the world to achieve this.”

CGI launched its new CGI OpenGrid360 solution which accelerates utilities’ efforts to transform their power grids by providing more unified, accurate and real-time data. With this enhanced visibility, utilities can optimize operations, improve customer and workforce experiences, and create new revenue opportunities. [Read our interview: A data enabled energy transition

What to expect on Tuesday 28 January:

Keynote addresses by CPS Energy CEO Paula Gold-Williams [read our interview with Gold-Williams] and futurist, Sophie Hackford.

Hackford is clear that she doesn’t see her role as a futurist to be one where she makes predictions about the future. Instead, she tries to force people to think about how technology that exists today — but is in use in other industries — could soon impact their operations.

“The future of the utility industry won’t look like today’s utility industry,” she told Clarion Energy staff recently in an interview. “It will look like something completely different. And the point is it’s very difficult when you are in that space to look at things that don’t look like you because your every day is stuck in your every day.”

She said she sees her role as one in which she points out innovation in other industries that “I think will have a tremendous impact on the [energy] industry that you don’t think you need to know about,” she said.

How does she do it? For one, she has clients from across many different sectors, so she is forced to stay on top of innovation in every single sector.

That’s quite a hefty proposition she acknowledged but said that it is her duty to make sure that she is as up to date as she can be on data or AI or robots or space or whatever the case may be.

“I don’t know what’s going to be interesting for that client, and in fact when I go and do a talk, often 10 people will come up afterwards and each say that a different part of the talk was very, very important to them,” she said.

Read more about what to expect at DTECH2020 here

Join us tomorrow when we share more news and feedback from DISTRIBUTECH International 2020.

Until then!