Duke Energy to demonstrate universal smart grid communications solution


David Mohler,
Duke Energy
Charlotte, NC, U.S.A. — (METERING.COM) — May 5, 2009 – Duke Energy is to demonstrate an IP-addressable Universal Communications Module (UCM) offering WAN, LAN and HAN connectivity to a variety of smart grid devices.

The UCM, under development by SmartSynch, is a “box” enclosure, separate from the meter, and acts as a "wireless pipe" capable of transmitting and receiving data over public wireless networks using internet-based or other open standards. Through the UCM and its use of public wireless networks, utilities should be able to quickly and affordably spot deploy smart grid applications, including load profile and control, power quality monitoring, distribution automation, and stand-by generator control, and support homeowner focused smart metering programs such as demand response, demand-side management and real time pricing.

The UCM uses field replaceable units to implement a variety of networking solutions that may be replaced as technologies evolve. These include Wide Area Network (WAN) cards, which allow for a link to the Internet and utility customer’s back office, Local Area Network (LAN) cards, which enable utilities to aggregate multiple meters on WAN connections, and Personal Area Network (PAN) cards, which give utilities access to home appliances for remote power management. Other cards can be made available to utilities to support other monitor and control applications as needed.

“The UCM is a ‘future-proof’ solution designed to meet the needs of our smart grid initiative, with the flexibility to support the varying requirements of the broad utility market," said David Mohler, CTO & VP for Duke Energy. "It fills a marketplace void for any utility seeking a truly interoperable and open, IP-addressable smart grid system conducive to remote upgrades as wireless and power technologies advance."

"The current legislative effort to bring our electrical grid into the 21st Century asks that Internet-based or other open protocols and standards be the foundation of the process," said Stephen Johnston, SmartSynch’s chief executive officer. "This is absolutely critical for utilities to interface with the smart grid solutions of the near future, such as HAN technologies. The UCM is a pure, IP-based smart grid solution that will help position utilities to meet the power supply, quality and distribution needs of the digital economy."

The UCM is intended to perform a variety smart grid functions, including retrieving energy and demand registers, power quality and interval data from residential meters to support demand response, demand side management, time-of-use pricing and other in-home programs; providing a communications interface for distribution automation equipment, and controlling commercial and industrial customers’ back-up generators during critical load periods to shave ‘peak’ and avoid manual site visits.

Duke Energy is one of the largest electric power companies in the United States, supplying and delivering electricity to approximately 4 million U.S. customers and natural gas service to approximately 520,000 customers in its regulated jurisdictions.