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Smart grid expert says emphasis should stay on utility

SUBNET Solutions Inc | Tuesday, July 17, 2012

As the smart grid continues to evolve, both customers and utilities will undoubtedly face a number of new options. However, one smart grid veteran says the largest focus should remain on the utility side of deployments, Intelligent Utility reports.

According to the news source, Steve Collier, an electrical engineer and member of IEEE, recently spoke on some of the most pressing issues the smart grid will face in the near future.

In Collier's opinion, the electrical power industry needs to focus more on infrastructure efficiencies than deploying consumer-facing and residential equipment, and even says improving the guts of the grid is more important than encouraging behavioral changes during peak demand periods.

"We should tackle why the grid is inadequate rather than just trying to change customers' expectations and behavior to accommodate its deficiencies. The recent wind-caused outages in the East are a case in point," he said. "Critical peak pricing and demand response provided no benefit. A smarter grid would have."

Collier added that in the last decade, numerous reports have uncovered that the current electrical grid does not have the technology to support new demands for power, and the typical behavior of utilities will need to change as well.

To Collier, it is impractical to ask energy consumers to get "smarter" about their electricity use, while the grid itself is not intelligent. The primary focus should be done on the utility side of things instead of "expecting the customers to do it all."

"We need a smarter grid enabled by advanced sensors and controls and new planning and operating methods, not just accommodations by customers," he said.

When Intelligent Utility asked Collier about the benefits of such intelligent electronic devices, he stated that all of the advancements that make up the smart grid - remote monitoring and real-time analysis of data - will be supported by better use of automation technology.

As these technologies become more widespread, utilities have found that integration of so many IEDs can often lead to time-consuming and expensive projects. With SUBNET's Unified Substation Communications, utilities can address the problems that are often encountered when installing multiple gateway devices to collect a vast amount of data.

The system allows utilities to collect this data from disparate IEDs, and helps them keep pace with the constantly changing technological environment. 

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