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The Impact of Distributed Generation

Distributed generation is getting increasing attention for impact on the electric utility industry.  DG has been the subject of a number of high profile articles in Business Week, the Wall St. Journal and several online business and industry news sites.  The Business Week article was particularly provocative, leading with the title, “Why the U.S. Power Grid’s Days Are Numbered“.

Residential DG, primarily solar, remains relatively sparse in the U.S. compared to Europe, especially Germany.  Commercial/Industrial DG is getting greater penetration with large initiatives such as Walmart installing solar on the top of every store, and low-priced natural gas leading industrial customers to generate their own power.  Although circumstances differ, the September 17, 2013, WSJ article, “In Post-Tsunami Japan, Homeowners Pull Away From Grid”, describes how Japanese homeowners could foreshadow even more disruption.  While residential fuel cells are not presently economical, higher volume production and deployment in Japan could certainly change that.  Low cost fuel cells could enable every customer with natural gas service to make the economic analysis about when or whether it’s worth turning to self generation. Read More »

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Why Smart Microgrids are Gaining Momentum

By Howard Baldwin, Contributing Columnist

For something with “micro” in its name, microgrids are becoming a pretty big deal. Microgrids are distributed, small-scale versions of the centralized conventional electricity grid systems.

According to an August 2013 report from research firm MarketsandMarkets, the total microgrid market is expected to grow at an estimated CAGR of 17% between 2012 and 2022, reaching a total installed capacity of 15.4 gigawatts by 2022 and a value of $27 billion.

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UTC Acceleration

The UTC TELECOM conference wraped recently and the Connected Grid team has had a great time on-site! It’s been exciting for us to demo key components of our product portfolio and connect with many of our core audiences. Centered on the theme of “delivering your future,” the sold-out event served as a great platform for us to discuss Cisco’s efforts within the utility industry and the migration of the grid into a fully IP-enabled world.   Read More »

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Laying Fiber: Creative Broadband Installations

By Howard Baldwin, Contributing Columnist

One of the most aggravating aspects of broadband deployment is the absence of a right answer. A few weeks ago, we asked Private or Public Sector: Who Should Deploy Broadband?. The answer was that there was no clear answer.

More recently, we set out to update Steve Shepard’s 2011 story about Fiber Optic Cable Installation In Sewers, looking for creative ways that companies or countries are using the existing underground passages to deploy fiber inexpensively. Same result: there was no clear answer.

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Utilities Roll out the Smart Grid in Canada

Recently FortisBC Inc., an integrated energy solution provider serving approximately 162,000 electricity customers in Canada, selected Itron’s smart grid solution to support the utility’s Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) project.  This follows on the heels of BC Hydro, another Canadian utility, announcing its plan to upgrade nearly 2 million electric meters over the next two years. Both utilities expect to improve customer engagement and reduce costs through operational efficiencies, and a key technology is the communications infrastructure on which both solutions will run.

Earlier this year, Cisco helped rally the industry around the utilities need for an architectural approach based on open standards, that would address interoperability and cybersecurity across disparate systems. The Cisco GridBlocks ArchitectureTM provides such framework, and its implementation for the utility field area network is what BC Hydro and FortisBC are using to deliver multiple applications and manage devices over a common communication network. Read More »

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