Engerati’s Week in Smart Energy: utility transformation

Utility innovation engerati's weekly roundup
Utilities need to evolve to survive a changing energy landscape by embracing energy storage and distributed resources, says Engerati

In the changing energy environment, new products and services will be crucial to driving forward the utility business, writes Jonathan Spencer Jones, contributing editor of Engerati, the sister portal to Metering.com.

An example out of California, which is at the forefront of much of the innovation in the sector, is San Diego Gas & Electric’s proposal for a special tariff aimed to encourage business customers to install battery storage which can then form part of the company’s distributed resources. [New business model sees SDG&E taking control of customer storage]

The proposal is now before the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), which also highlights the crucial role of regulators, not only reactively but also proactively to drive forward these new models.

Meanwhile, islands the world over face broadly similar challenges, with a high reliance on imported fossil fuels and consequently high energy costs, and it is little wonder that many are increasingly looking to renewables as an alternative.

For Caribbean islands, a helping hand is available through the Carbon War Room and Rocky Mountain Institute, which have launched the Ten Island Challenge to encourage islands to move towards a 100% renewable future. Latest to join up is Belize, which has an 89% renewable target for 2033. [Belize Joins Caribbean’s Move To Low-Carbon Energy]

Technology, organization and process all play a key role in securing the grid from the increased cyber threats that utilities are having to face. [Cyber Security: How Utilities Can Reduce Threat]

But be warned, as there is no room for complacency – according to the US Department of Homeland Security’s Industrial Control Systems Computer Emergency Response Team, almost one-third of the reported cyber security incidents in 2014 were related to the energy industry.

Smart grid standards need to evolve to keep up with the new sector developments. In a recent exclusive interview, Endesa’s Robert Denda, who chairs the Protocol Specification Committee for METERS AND MORE, told Engerati that the association is taking steps to meet the demands of new services and applications. [Utilities Should Opt for International Standards-Based Solutions] These will include the specifications for a new generation communication solution between the meter and end-customer devices and METERS AND MORE-compatible communication technologies for smart city applications.

A key challenge facing our sector is the ageing workforce, yet it appears that companies are not always doing as much as they could to attract new entrants. OMNETRIC Group appears to be an exception having taken on a number of young talent individuals and is also supporting the Young Talent Programme at the forthcoming European Utility Week.

“We want to avoid a predominant heritage and develop one new culture that fosters agility, collaboration and deep industry and technology expertise,” OMNETRIC Group CEO Maikel van Verseveld told Engerati of his company’s approach to bringing on board new talent. [Young Talent Can Save Utilities From the ‘Death Spiral’]

Enjoy these and other stories on Engerati.