Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Intelligent agents to enhance open communication and self-healing

Interview with Dr. Maher Chebbo, VP Utilities EMEA, SAP

smartelectricnews.com Special

An emerging technology area facilitating the development of smart-grid infrastructure is the use of intelligent agents, which are increasingly being used to participate in electrical utilities' demand response programmes.

These devices combine components for sensing, computing, device control, and communication in order to optimise energy usage.

It is said that these intelligent agents interact with each other in a more localised fashion before they interact with the centralised utility grid. When agents in a group interact, they can analyse the predetermined reduction programmes for each customer and react accordingly. This autonomy provides greater efficiency and is more cost-effective than a purely centralised system.

Going forward, Dr. Maher Chebbo, Vice President Utilities for Europe ,Middle East and Africa (EMEA), SAP AG, who presented during Intelligent Demand Response for Electricity Summit 2009 held in Amsterdam recently, says the intelligent agents will include more ICT and Electronics and a result they will further help in open communication and self-healing processes.

A fundamental capability of a self-healing grid is its ability to prevent or contain major disturbances. The vision of a "self-healing" smart grid is feasible using a distributed infrastructure for monitoring and control.

Utilities now acknowledged that today's distribution grid is more than an interconnected system of generating units, power lines, substations and transformers that deliver electricity to customers. Smart Grid refers to a modern, intelligent electricity transmission and distribution system that incorporates traditional and advanced power engineering to enhance grid performance and support a wide array of functionality for customers and the economy.

And technologies that help save energy at households include:

· Time of use Pricing Information
· Dynamic Pricing signals
· Smart Thermostat
· Home Energy management Systems like devices.

"These technologies help peak demand reduction up to 40 percent plus in some cases," says Dr. Chebbo.

Two-way communication

For a utility to monitor the power used by its customers, then to transmit demand-response commands to a customer's automated energy management system, there must be a two-way communication.

The utility receives the usage information from the customer's meter, and can then send messages, via email or telephone, informing them of the need to reduce power. During demand response events, the utility can activate automatic controls to reduce air conditioning, lower lighting levels, or momentarily turn off appliances – usually with an override option by the consumer.

On the two-way communication process, Dr. Chebbo said utilities companies send tariffs and contract information + price signals to the consumers through Smart Meters and Internet.

"Consumers will change their options (if their contract allows) on the Smart meters and through the Internert Self Services (also SMS or mobile transactions could be used). Demand Response is one of the scnearios that are enabled by Smart Metering Infrastructure," said Dr. Chebbo.

One of the critical components of communication systems for demand response includes software, which is used to perform the various tasks required to run smart grid networks and demand-response applications.

"There are different kind of software required for the smart grids and demand response : the technical software like SCADA (they have to evolve to become smart grids compliance), the management software (like SAP ERP, Customer Information system, Asset Management, Smart Metering Application scenarios), the technical software for management the Smart metering Infrastructure (Meter Data Unification System) and they have to talk to each other in real time and interoperability is key," said Dr. Chebbo.

The industry has already witnessed the development of turnkey "energy intelligence" software to electric utilities for use in residential applications. These offerings include software, hardware, and "smart
meters" that help control energy load. For instance, hardware products include meters with Internet capabilities, which make it possible for clients to access their usage records on demand, and software offerings include programmes, which allows customers to monitor their meters, automate usage reduction, and receive alerts and grid demand status.

On procuring such solutions, Dr. Chebbo recommended: "The ones who should be providing a platform for smart grids and demand response should be system integrators with a good knowledge of the industry, rather than a single software vendor."

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