Improvements in lithium ion (Li-ion) battery technology are helping to accelerate the worldwide market for electric vehicles (EVs). In the last few years, automakers have shifted from nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) batteries to Li-ion batteries. This shift represents a major endorsement of Li-ion chemistry and its ability to perform consistently in an automotive environment. According to a recent report from Navigant Research, total worldwide capacity of Li-ion batteries for transportation applications will increase more than ten-fold, from 4,400 megawatt-hours (MWh) in 2013 to nearly 49,000 MWh by 2020.
The Bloomberg New Energy Finance Summit has two key words; “new” and “finance.” These words help define the dilemma which U.S. energy regulators find themselves in now. From its inception, the legal foundation for energy regulation has been focused on reliability and low cost. However, new energy resources, policy demands, and industry dynamics are placing increasing stress on the financial model that supports our century-old regulatory charters. Addressing these stresses requires innovation in business models, technology, and – perhaps most importantly – regulation.
Simply put, the grid requires modernization, but the current regulatory/financial model often hinders modernization efforts. Today, energy regulation favors investment in traditional grid assets like power plants, sub-stations, and “stringing more copper.” These kinds of investments are still needed, but over time, they are woefully insufficient to meet new system challenges.
Demand response (DR) programs, which aim to achieve stability on the grid by ensuring that demand does not exceed supply of electric power, have been offered to many electric customers in the United States for decades. In the last ten years, utilities and grid operators have adopted new technologies and practices to move demand resources to the next evolutionary phase, offering more advanced types of DR schemes. As a result, a large number of DR programs have proliferated among more than 3,400 energy providers, which represent the broad spectrum of the electricity delivery industry in the United States.
Organizations across the power industry are excited about big data’s potential to address broad industry challenges and open opportunities for improving operations. These range from aging assets managed by an aging work force to better storm preparation and response to enabling energy efficiency.
Big data that pours in from the smart grid, social media, customer calls and online forms, streaming video and photography that provide real-world views of grid assets offer new opportunities for utilities to improve asset health, accelerate outage restoration and increase customer satisfaction.
Led by strong U.S. support from the White House and DOE, smart grid cyber security is quickly becoming a top-priority for every utility in the U.S. This fact, along with an ever growing list of utilities that have been hacked, will push the market for smart grid cyber security systems to $7.25 billion by 2020. Utilities such as Potomac Electric Power /PEPCO Holdings., the City of Roseville (Roseville Electric), Baltimore Gas & Electric, Idaho Power, Pedernales Electric Cooperative. and Entergy Services have already experienced the effects of cyber-attacks (or suspected attacks). Companies such as IBM, ViaSat, Cisco, SAIC, Black and Veatch, Lockheed Martin, and Siemens are all vying for market leadership in this space. However, only time will tell which solution ultimately wins the approval among utilities across the globe.
The first comprehensive and large scale smart grid is now operating. The $800 million project, built in Florida, has made power outages shorter and less frequent, and helped some customers save money, according to the utility that operates it.
Smart grids should be far more resilient than conventional grids, which is important for surviving storms, and make it easier to install more intermittent sources of energy like solar power (see “China Tests a Small Smart Electric Grid” and “On the Smart Grid, a Watt Saved Is a Watt Earned”). The Recovery Act of 2009 gave a vital boost to the development of smart grid technology, and the Florida grid was built with $200 million from the U.S. Department of Energy made available through the Recovery Act.
I told you recently about the value of Cisco’s GridBlocks architecture, which has convergence as one of its themes – the convergence of the electric power and communications networks. In its newly update reference architecture, Microsoft has chosen to emphasize the integration of IT and OT. The vision is to allow a utility to run both sides of the house on a single enterprise platform. And to allow that utility to put as much (or as little) of that platform in the cloud as it wants.
At 255 pages, the Microsoft reference architecture covers a lot of ground. I think these four areas deserve special attention: cloud computing, Big Data, mobility and security.
The battle cry to “plug in” your car might need to be adjusted, because wireless charging of electric vehicles is getting real. WAVE Inc., a company spun off from Utah State University, recently won contracts to provide its inductive chargers for electric buses in Long Beach, Calif., and for the Monterey-Salinas Transit Authority.
The buses will be produced at a new U.S.-based plant of BYD, the Chinese car company. “BYD wanted to use its own (plug-in) chargers,” Larry Jackson, president and CEO of Long Beach Transit, told PluginCars. “I said why don’t we try to see if we can get something that pushes the envelope technologically instead of just plugging in?”
Cyber security has emerged as something that almost all power grid companies worry about and invest in, and entrepreneurs and startups are innovating to deliver new types of security solutions for the power grid. For example, an under the radar company called GridCOM Technologies tells us it’s developing a new tool based on quantum physics that could protect the grid from such digital security attacks.
Cisco, which wants to expand its clout into the industrial networks used by power-generation utilities to support the electric grid, today announced an expansion of its “smart grid” portfolio with ruggedized and low-latency switches and other equipment intended for use in electric-power distribution systems.
“Utilities often have systems unique to them,” said Jenny Gomez, marketing manager in Cisco’s Connected Energy Business Unit that oversees the architecting of a wide range of equipment for networking and physical security to modernize utility networks while supporting their legacy systems that in some cases aren’t being swapped out.
We’ve all seen those ‘FAIL’ pictures that turn up on the internet with startling regularity–tastelessly placed adverts in newspapers, security cameras facing blank walls, products with overly suggestive graphics… you know the deal.
Welcome to the latest in a long line of fails, spotted by of BMW ActiveE facebook group user, Jack Brown.
Jack posted a photo in the group of a Blink charger installed in downtown Watsonville, California. Nothing unusual about that, until you see how it’s positioned.
Fresh off its best sales month every in March and a huge 423.5 percent year-over-year sales increase in April, the Nissan Leaf has passed the 25,000 sales threshold in the US. A combination of factors, including a $6,000 price chop in January, have helped the Leaf become the world’s best selling electric vehicle.
The January price reduction on the Nissan Leaf brought it down to a very affordable $28,000 but, depending on where you live, that number could fall as low as $18,800 due to a variety of tax credits. This has kept the Leaf’s sales growing, which isn’t the case for all electric vehicles. Chevy Volt, with it’s $40,000 price tag, saw its sales decline 12% year-to-year for the month of April.
Solar panels capture energy from light and convert it to electricity. This is the most visible form of energy harvesting, but it is hardly the only one. Energy harvesting captures energy lost as heat, light, sound, vibration, or movement. Devices that harvest or scavenge energy can capture, accumulate, store, condition, and manage this energy into electricity for consumption. That’s important, because our existing electricity infrastructure is extremely wasteful in its use of energy. For instance, today’s technologies used in electricity generation are not energy efficient. Traditional gas or steam-powered turbines convert heat to mechanical energy, which is then converted to electricity. Up to two thirds of that energy input is lost as heat. Those old incandescent bulbs (technology invented by Thomas Edison in 1879) were real energy losers too. Ninety percent of the electricity flowing into incandescent bulbs ends up as waste heat. That’s lost energy, which is why smart federal legislation banned incandescents in favor of more energy efficient sources of lighting starting in 2012.
The U.S. Department of Energy has been a strong advocate for new forms of energy for several years. The federal agency has been responsible for much of the progress the country has made in the renewable energy sector for some time, but has also served as a stumbling block for this progress through its support of very specific forms of renewable power and forgoing a focus on the country’s energy infrastructure. Though the Department of Energy has made efforts to modernize the country’s energy grid, it was not until very recently that these efforts became more serious.
Nissan and Car Charging Group, Inc. (OTCQB: CCGI), a nationwide provider of convenient electric vehicle (EV) charging services, announced a joint initiative to make EV charging more readily available and to expand consumer awareness of the electric car market. CarCharging and Nissan will work together to determine the placement of the chargers, which is expected to be in key markets throughout the United States by the end of 2013.
Nest Labs purchased fellow startup MyEnergy on Wednesday to enhance its partnerships in the utility sector and expand its residential demand response offerings.
Nest doesn’t call its new services “demand response,” but it has been building its utility relationships and announced deals with Austin Energy, Green Mountain Energy and Southern California Edison last month.
National Grid has unveiled plans for the future home of its Sustainability Hub, a 2,200 square-foot facility centrally located within the company’s smart grid pilot area in Worcester, Mass.
The space, located at 912 Main St., has been donated by Clark University and will provide the community and customers with interactive education about energy efficiency and emerging technologies. National Grid says the hub is an integral part of its smart grid pilot, now known as the Smart Energy Solutions Program.
Massachusetts-based startup WiTricity believes it has the answer to electric vehicle (EV) charging. But first, WiTricity vice president of sales and business development David Schatz has a torso to show me.
It’s the first time WiTrcity has shown its torso, which is really a gel mold that resembles human flesh. Inside it are lights that represent medical devices like heart pumps that could require 10 to 20 watts of power, neurostimulators needing few hundred milliwatts to a few watts, and implanted drug delivery pumps requiring anywhere from milliwatts to several watts. Instead of implanting batteries or having wires running out of a person, WiTricity says it can charge the in-body devices wirelessly, with its technology. Schatz places the torso on the table, holds a magnetic resonator device under the table, and the objects in the gel torso light up. Pretty cool.
Natural gas seems to invoke a win/win perspective as the solution to all problems in some discussions about energy policy and the best fuels for electricity generation and transportation. In these scenarios, the only downside is the pressure it puts on renewable energy technologies. Yes, natural gas is cleaner than coal. It exhausts about half the carbon dioxide or CO2produced by coal. It does not have a nasty byproduct called coal ash, which can have toxic consequences of its own – both environmentally and financially – as we lack good answers to disposal of its waste.
The Asia-Pacific smart grid market earned approximately $5.4 billion in 2012 and will reach $15.83 billion in 2018, finds a new report from Frost & Sullivan.
The report says the smart grid market in Asia-Pacific got a huge boost from the rollouts of advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) in Australasia and smart city projects in North Asia. In addition, the market can expect higher revenue inflow with the rising popularity of demand response systems and energy management system (EMS) installations, as well as Southeast Asia’s desire to switch to smart grids.