G20 Summit and the Smart Grid: Korean Initiatives for the Future

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Last week’s G20 summit in Seoul was focused on solving current tensions in the global currency war. A two-day meeting may be too short to reach instant action items between twenty countries representing the global economy because they face complicated domestic economic situations. Global media outlets have different views on Seoul summit outcomes but it is undeniable that the summit ended without a real commitment to immediate action. In their final declaration, twenty leaders of most powerful economies pledged to work together and to refrain from protectionism and competitive devaluation of currencies. Preventing an additional currency war may be the hands-on outcome.

From a different perspective, the G20 summit in Seoul may be meaningful with a newly launched sub meeting: “The G20 Business Summit” (also known as B20 summit) promoting global efforts for the harmonization in Trade and Foreign Direct Investment, Finance, Green Growth and Corporate Social Responsibility. Many executives and top CEOs of multinational companies participated in discussions ahead of the G20 meeting. While the G20 summit reached broader and artificial agreement to solve global currency disputes, the B20 meeting may promote productive collaborations with a total of 96 arranged meetings with over 300 executives in actual business deals and agreements. One of the main themes in the G20 Seoul business summit was clean technology and green business, with discussions on the following:

- The working group for Creating Green Jobs agreed to set a robust price on carbon, scaling up research and development, eliminating fossil fuel subsidies as quickly as possible, and allowing free trade in environmental goods and services.

- In addition, Vestas CEO Ditlev Engel suggested creating more green jobs and more policy favorable to clean energy. He also called on G20 leaders to meet with him for an hour so he can help them leave fossil fuels behind.

- Jean-Pascal Tricoire, CEO of Schneider Electric emphasized the importance of promoting energy efficiency and announced organic investments plans in APAC. He noted the favorable market environment in Korea for the government initiative for smart grid and green growth strategy and in China for the largest market opportunities in clean industry.

The same week Korea also hosted the international seminar conference: Korea Smart Grid Week in Jeju Island at the southern end of Korea. Along with beautiful landscape and clean nature, Jeju has been paid attention from the world for Korea’s ongoing comprehensive Smart Grid demonstration project.

The event was comprised of a tour of Korea smart grid demonstration sites and a four-day seminar programs addressing smart grid standardization and smart grid test bed in Korea, the U.S., Australia, Japan, the Netherlands, etc. Hundreds of participants could visit the sites designed by Korean consortium companies for renewable energy, AMI, EV, HEMS, and power grid upgrades practices. Highlights of the conference were:

- ISGAN (International Smart Grid Action Network) started the global harmonization in smart grid in Jeju. Proposed by a Korean camp, ISGAN was established in July, 2010 to facilitate the international cooperation for development and standard suggested in the Technology Action Plan by the Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate (MEF) announced in Copenhagen in December 2009. Smart grid interoperability over global standard framework may be time consuming and challenging to many market participants pursuing different interests, but it is a necessary foothold to accomplish the global proliferation toward low carbon and green economy via smart grid.

- Japan will be focusing on a comprehensive clean technology action plan: Smart Community. To Japan, smart grid is a part of the action plan, and Japan will take a much wider and systematic approach to create world-leading reliable and green social systems by leveraging Japan’s existing leaderships in IT and high-end technologies. The key scope designed by Smart Community in Japan includes the implementation of large scale of renewable energy, home energy conservation and smart life environment, proliferation of electric vehicles, and more green technology business models.

- LG’s Real Life Demonstration Site: I visited several demonstration sites including SK Telecom and GS Caltex consortium for their smart place (AMI and HEMS), and smart transportation (EV and chargers). It was very valuable to understand their activities through PR videos and conceptual diagrams on the panel. LG’s test bed in a general residential home was exceptional and impressive because visitors can experience and see the energy saving results and understand how HAN environment in smart grid can play the functionalities over real networking framework in home. LG laid up seamless connections over smart appliances with ZigBee connection, IHD, smart meters, and demand response simulation with connected networks. Outside of the demo house, micro grid facilities comprised of diverse electric power generating sources (solar panel, wind turbine, sea water heating and cooling systems) were comprehensively integrated and linked with Li-ion based ESS, Fuel Cells, and Heat Pumps. I could see the meter rolling in reverse, meaning that consumers could earn money from generated electricity power from these facilities. This is the model for the electric power market place in which general consumers could sell surplus power generated by home based energy sources.

- Korea – the U.S. tie up in Smart Grid: The state of Illinois and Jeju signed an MOU for collaborative research and development partnerships in green technologies for private and public sectors and smart grid. Along with another tie-up between KATS (Korean Agency for Technology Standard) and NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology) for creating standards for smart grid, the cooperation will strengthen the partnerships in both countries.

What I learned from two events in Seoul and Jeju is that more global cooperation is required. The efforts from world leaders will be essential in the stabilized and sustainable progress for the global economy. Thus, the role of the global cooperation will be more emphasized, and the efforts toward low carbon society could be the first cornerstone for such harmonized cooperation for “Our” future.

Article by Andy Bae, appearing courtesy Matter Network.

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