Utilities must get ready for Electricity 2.0 and decide what role they want to play in the next phase of electrical power’s evolution, Jesse Berst, chairman of the Smart Cities Council, said this week at the Siemens Smart Grid Software Leadership Conference in Orlando, Florida.

Mr Berst, who gave one of the keynote addresses to the audience of utilities and software users, said: “We are in a time of transition and the electric power industry is so central to changes that we need to make in the next few years.

“The traditional utility business model will not sustain a modernised electric power industry.

He added: “We are reinventing electricity from top to bottom, end to end, to make it clean and renewable. Everything is changing – from how we use electricity to what we use it for and how we deliver it”

Seattle-based Berst estimates that the US smart grid industry is about three years into a 10-year cycle of development. “Technology is ready and eagerly waiting to help you, stakeholders are ready and it won’t last. China won’t wait and the fact that Google spent so much on Nest Labs suggests they’re getting ready too.”

Berst concluded with an appeal for utilities to be “intentional” in their role in the new smart grid and to decide in advance what role they wanted to play because “the decisions that we make now, are going to last for decades”, he said.

Vision of the future

Thomas Zimmermann, CEO, Siemens Smart Grid Services continued the theme of transformation and the need for utilities to prepare for change.

Mr Zimmermann shared the Siemens vision of a number of different grids – from a transmission super grid to micro and nano grids – managed by the transfer of data.

He said: “We see a number of different energy cells making up the grid – from power plants, community, dedicated storage, and beyond electricity, like thermal grids, heat exchange, and ICT.

“This is the vision but we can take a step-by-step approach to building the utility of the future.”

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