Trends to watch on Smart Grid in 2011 and Beyond
The ‘smart grid’ , the integration of the new embedded computing and communications technologies into the fabric of the power network is widely seen as the means to adapting our electrical infrastructure to meet these global needs.
The months ahead should witness the maturation of the smart grid as all the trials , mandates and pilots move towards production deployment. There are some trends that bear watching and scrutiny .
In the following section , Pike Research focuses on some trends that will be most influential in the emerging smart grid sector.
1. Security will become the top Smart Grid concern
In 2009 at the Black Hat conference , the infamous smart meter hacking demonstration did raise cyber security awareness within the smart grid community.
The discovery of the Stuxnet ‘worm’ in July 2010 awakened the industry to the tangible and very complex threats to the Supervisory Control and Acquisition (SCADA) Systems that run today’s ‘semi-smart’ grid and are posed to take a central position in a fully integrated and controversial ‘really smart’ grid.’
Stuxnet is a relatively silent worm that specifically targets and embeds itself into SCADA systems providing a potential means to wreak havoc.
The technical analysis on Stuxnet continues as it appears to be a very sophisticated attack not aimed at the electrical infrastructure. But if nothing else ,the threats security experts have been warning of for years have now moved from theory to reality. Since the industry is taking greater notice especially regulators and government , utilities will need to determine what cyber security measures are required - even as standards and regulations are still evolving.
2. Distributed Automation Will Rival AMI as the most visible Smart Grid Application
Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) captured the most mindshare within the smart grid discussion.
Distribution Automation (DA) has been spurned by the threat and opportunity of plug in electric vehicles (PEVs) and distribution generation (DG) , as it moves to the earliest phases of actual commercial adoption.
The technological word association with the term distribution automation is likely to evolve as the industry confronts the realities of transforming the distribution network from a one - way to a multi way power network.
Distribution automation projects , whether they target leading edge applications or traditional reliability improvements.
They have the potential to deliver tangible benefits without requiring intensive consumer engagement or behaviour change.
3. The 'Bakersfield Effect’ will continue but some consumers will actually like the Smart Grid.‘Bakersfield Effect’
In Smart Grid history , 2010 is the year of the Bakersfield Effect.
This expression refers to the birthplace of loud consumer pushback on smart meters which was blamed for dramatically higher electricity bills experienced by PG&E customers in the summer of 2009.The Bakersfield Effect ’s impact on smart grid development
a. Consumers have been introduced to the smart grid through national news stories chronicling problems. This feeds an already well cultivated antagonism towards their local utility.
b. The uproar has spotlighted whether the benefits of smart meters (and the smart grid by association) are big enough , accessible enough , near enough to warrant the extra costs being passed on to consumers. The industry has been ill prepared to answer questions especially from the consumers
c. Fringe groups are questioning the health effects of RF- based AMI systems. Normally these claims would be easily dismissed , but the backlash atmosphere has spooked a few municipalities into banning smart grid deployments within its borders.
d. Regulators and especially politician , aware of the ruckus, are responding with a mix of rational questioning and irrational opportunism. Meanwhile , may utilities have responded with a mix of surprise and cluelessness.
4. Smart Meter and AMI focus will shift towards Europe and China
As large as these European deployment are , they pale in comparison to China’s smart metering deployment plans which will come into focus in 2011. China’s State Grid Corporation has thus focused on large scale ,high voltage transmissions system buildouts. However , it has also been quietly working on specific smart metering standards (mostly PLC based) and initial tenders across a number of provincial utilities already total over 40 million meters. Ultimately , plans for over 700 million smart meters across China by 2020 are being discussed, dwarfing the plans of any other regions. Whatever the timeline , the vast quantities involved will certainly focus the industry’s attention on smart meters. Moreover , with the standard regime seemingly favouring indigenous smart meter manufacturers , China vendors are likely to become even stronger competitors across the globe.
 Smart Grid : Ten Trends to Watch in 2011 and Beyond by Bob Gohn and Clint Wheelock from Pike Research (Published in Q4 2010) .