While preparing my travel via Atlanta Hartsfield Airport to San Antonio to join Distributech, the leading utility and technology event in North America, I had a word with my colleagues that walked the floor at CES in Las Vegas last week.
“Blackout” – “Evacuation” – “Recovery” were the headlines following outages in both highly frequented locations. It showed us once more how dependent our society is on the availability of electricity supply.
With the tremendous increase of solar, storage and EV we will likely experience more situations as seen in CES or ATL. But I don’t want to be an alarmist – there are solutions and promising approaches to either prevent or remediate these kinds of incidents with the help of decentralized energy management solutions.
So, I ask myself who is motivated to master these challenges? The incumbent utilities around the globe are ideally positioned to expand their value proposition of offering “security of supply” into the area “behind the meter”. However, it is a race amongst several industries to find the right business model and technology to monetize on this promise.
It is a no-brainer, that an intelligent IoT implementation combined with intelligent data analytics is key to winning this race. When discussing with customers and partners why the basic IoT adaptation in the building stock is so low – the main answers are:
- it is too complicated,
- too expensive
- comes with a big risk of not being future proof
All this is true as soon as you start your IoT-journey by evaluating technology based on single use cases (e.g. outage prevention). This is in the long run is very likely to lead to an overinvestment and underperformance of IoT deployments, as investments will be sequentially renewed once new use cases appear. A better start would be to get all stakeholders and potential partners around a table and ask a simple question: “What governance do we need to get the data, in sufficient quality and volume, out of our infrastructure?”
Let’s start with this governance question and bring in the idea of how future electricity infrastructure will look: a decentralized and autonomous network. This future microgrid topology should be mirrored by a flexible, over time scalable and decentralized communication topology. With Wirepas Connectivity, utilities can deploy this mirror network without investing (or making the customers invest) in additional infrastructure like antennas or poles. In addition, our IP licencing business model frees anyone from paying recurrent connectivity to reach behind the meter. Smart meters can operate in the same mesh as solar installations, storage and grid equipment – scalable into millions and resilient to future threats – still respecting all ownership rights and privacy of users.
As futurist Richard Watson states, our societies are always three missing meals away from a riot. Outages of any scale are exposing us to this societal risk – let us discuss this approach at Distributech booth #1211.
- Thomas Weisshaupt, Director, Product Marketing for Smart Metering