This Center of Excellence provides an easy, one-stop access to the latest electric grid technology news, research and implementation. Our T&D World editors are responsible for the content, and we are now populating our library with technical articles from multiple world-class sources. This is a huge undertaking, and we are working hard to keep everything indexed and user-friendly.
More than 'Smart Grid'
Keeping our aging electric grid infrastructure up and humming requires more technology scope than what usually falls under the definition of smart grid.
Until fairly recently the power was sent to customers almost as a ‘Hail Mary’ football pass. We hoped they got it but didn’t know if they didn’t, unless they called to complain.
Now comes the 21st century. Converging technologies have changed the rules and drop-kicked the industry into a new paradigm – where sensors, telecommunications, and distributed processing can conceivably enable us to optimize or near-optimize just about every grid function and customer interaction.
Even the long-neglected distribution system is on its way to becoming a real, honest-to-goodness, observable, controllable system.
But high-tech information and telecommunications technologies are only part of the grid transformation. New materials and construction techniques are enabling us to build poles, towers and other structures that can withstand storms better than ever before. Enhanced inspection and testing methodologies are being developed – some adopted from other industries. All of these efforts can provide better reliability and life extension of the existing system through integrated asset management.
Ironically, these revolutionary changes are occurring within a financially conservative industry during a time of a national economic slump.
Fortunately, new technology offerings have created a convergence of funding - we’re talking big, big bucks as we start going up the investment/features curve of the new paradigm. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 is providing $4.5 billion to modernize the nation's electrical grid – the "smart grid" stimulus. Apart from that, the government is laying out $27.2 billion for energy efficiency and renewable energy research and investment, most of which will ultimately affect the electric system. But way beyond the initial stimulus funding, it’s estimated that utilities will need to invest $1.5 trillion to $2 trillion by 2030 to continue to fully deploy smart grid technology.
No wonder electric utilities are being courted like never before by high tech providers – our industry has suddenly blossomed into an extremely attractive, fast growing market of big spenders. For example, utilities have spent over $3 billion annually on telecommunications equipment and services over the last two years, an increase of 21 percent over 2009 levels. Outlays for wireless communications are expected to about double by 2016, primarily in support of the 65 million smart meters expected to be deployed by 2020.
The pace is fast, the work is exciting, and our professional environment is radically changing. This is truly the decade of change for the electric power industry.
We Need New Ways to Keep Up
Half our utility personnel are now retiring, causing an increasing brain drain right when we need engineering resources the most. So, our upcoming engineers simply must stay current with fast moving technologies and trends.
And that brings us back to why we put this site together. It’s the right time, and we have the right resources. I’m also pleased to say, “Thank you, ABB, for sponsoring this center!”
The T&D World staff producing the Grid Optimization Center of Excellence has over 100 years of technology experience in the utility industry, and T&D World magazine has the largest global circulation of any electric transmission and distribution trade magazine in the world.
That gives us the means to incorporate our greatest resource – our reader base. We’re looking forward to establishing a user community with the common goal of helping our industry be the best that it can be. To that end, you’re invited to use all the comment opportunities and social networking links on this site. And feel free to call or email me any time with your suggestions, comments and criticisms -- or to just to say hello.
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About the Editor
Paul earned his B.S. and an M.S. in electrical engineering from the University of California-Berkeley and is a registered professional engineer. He has worked in the energy industry for more than 25 years, developing and implementing advanced energy technologies. As research director for Pacific Gas and Electric Co. he pioneered methodologies used in the design, maintenance and control of energy delivery systems. As a consultant he has provided guidance to utilities and the vendor community, nationally and internationally. Email him with comments: [email protected]