The Future of Smart Grid: Technology Experts Grapple With Implementation Challenges

Imagine this scenario: you get an SMS saying there’s a problem in your home of excessive power output (“power leak”) and that an electric company rep is on his way to fix the problem. Sounds incredible? Well, apparently this scenario is not far from being realized. This is what Itai Brezis, Director of Strategy and Business Development at Cellcom, claimed at the “From Hi-tech to Smart Energy” Conference in Tel Aviv, which focused on opportunities for the ICT (Information and Communication Technologies) industry in the Smart Grid arena.

Today the ICT arena is looking for technologies which will make its communication with and for the end customer more efficient, and will reduce costs for both sides. The ability to monitor problems quickly online, and to manage vast amounts of information, is a clear goal of ICT, as well as for infrastructure companies. According to Brezis, if in the past the communications world focused on the connection between end users, today the focus is on data, where appliances “talk” to one another without a human factor involved (M2M – Machine to Machine). This type of communication, with a huge volume of data flowing through it, demands elite technology.

The event, which examined the interaction between ICT companies and Smart Grid, and which was organized by Israel NewTech and the Israel Export Institute, together with the Organization for Smart Energy, analyzed what is being done in the field today, and provided forecasts for growth rates.

The global smart metering market has exploded since 2005 as utilities in North America and Europe have scrambled to modernize their aging grid infrastructure. This according to representatives of the IDC research institute. According to them, while North America and Europe have led the way, the industry is however poised to enter an era of global growth; utility pilots and deployments are well under way in both Latin America and the Asia/Pacific.

Smart Grid spending will increase 17.4% globally (CAGR for hardware, software and services) from 2010 to 2015 while overall spending will reach nearly $46.4 Billion worldwide in 2015. The Asia/Pacific region is forecast to experience the most growth in spending with a five-year CAGR of 33.7%. Annual smart meter shipments are expected to surpass 140 million units worldwide by 2016, up from 25.4 million in 2011, representing a CAGR of 32.9% over the 2011 to 2016 forecast period.

These figures were presented at the event by Dr. Daniella Muallem, Senior Research Analyst, IDC Energy Insights EMEA, from the IDC Energy Insights report: “Worldwide Utility Smart Grid Spending Forecast, 2010-2015.”.

At the beginning of the event, the CEO of the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labor, Sharon Kedmi, said that the Ministry sees Smart Grid and energy efficiency as important drivers of the Israeli hi-tech industry, and that the Ministry intends to help companies to develop in this direction. But there are obstacles that need to be overcome, amongst them “The ability to change the paradigm in the thinking of infrastructure companies and regulators,” as explained Yossi Shank, Manager of information systems at the Israel Electric Corporation (IEC). According to him, the problem lies not in the technologies but rather in the cultural and organizational processes which block or delay the implementation of innovative technologies.

Yuval Shchory, Public Sector Vertical and Architecture Leader at Cisco Israel, noted that the ability to protect against cyber attacks is one of the key issues in the Smart Grid arena, together with the challenge of expanding the capabilities of the network and prevent inefficient use which creates unnecessary data overload. A key issue that was brought up again and again at the event, and was also brought up by Maikel Van Verseeveld, Senior Executive at Accenture, is the challenge presented by the integration of innovative technologies, without which series malfunctions could occur.

Itai Ben Dor, VP Sales and Marketing at Mobix, quoted a common saying in the industry today saying that for every dollar that is invested in equipment, $10 will be invested in integration. Ben Dor made his comments in the framework of a panel of technology companies in the Smart Grid arena, which was led by Dr. Amikam Levanon, of the KARAT technology incubator of the IEC. Another participant in the panel was Avner Cohen, CEO of Greenlet Technologies, who noted that it is now easier to integrate innovative technologies in the energy field in the world then it is in telecom, but that in the Telecom world too there is real interest in seeking out technologies.

Article appearing courtesy Israel NewTech.

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