Friday, July 04, 2008

BPN 1148 Smart grids to surpass white elephant powerlines?

Powerline technology has been a long promise. I usually call thos type of projects white elephants: they promise a lot, but never get hot. I heard about powrlinetechnology for the first time in 1980, when in a conference on videotex smart metering was mentioned. But in the same breath electronic banking was mentioned, which did come about in The Netherlands in 1986. But smart metering is yet in a rudimntary stage in The Netherlands, let alone Broadband over Powerlines (BPL). It all comes together under the key word smart grids. My Dutch Australian friend Paul Budde just published an extensive report about it with a summary of smart grid activities. He thinks that 2008 will be a crucial year for smart grids. I copy his press release:

The future growth of Broadband over Powerline now largely rests on smart grid development and in 2008 it is becoming clearer that smart grids will be one of the networks of the future. Utilities around the world are turning their attention to smart grids for internal energy monitoring and management. This is primarily due to rising concerns relating to climate change and CO2 issues and the utilities are now in a race to upgrade their decades old infrastructure to make it more intelligent and efficient.

At the same time, many utilities involved in this market have become unwilling to take on the telcos in the broadband market and the support for BPL as a third broadband access for the home is waning. Applications for BPL technology now revolve around smart grids and Demand Side Management services. Utilities are looking internally and using the technology and skills to upgrade their networks for smart grid purposes. The utilities involved in these developments are embracing the concept of an end-to-end solution in the total energy chain.

BPL offers benefits in home networking due to its ubiquity. Utilities and access providers around the world are aggressively deploying HomePlug in BPL applications for electric grid management, automatic meter reading applications, Command and Control and broadband to the home. The regulatory and social environment today favours energy conservation which is pushing utilities toward DSM as a way to reduce costs, minimise investment in new power plants and improve customer service. There is growing requirement for a more sophisticated management of energy in people’s homes and businesses.

A smart grid will also offer smart meter features which will allow users and utilities to utilise information about usage, supply and real-time price, as well as allowing them to better manage energy use both from an end-user and a supply perspective. However governments need to ensure that smart meters do form part of an overall smart grid strategy. Smart meters on their own could be an expensive dead-end investment if this hardware eventually has to be removed from homes to be replaced with IP-based, software-driven meters with two-way communication over the Net.

Key highlights:
· Significantly one of the key US BPL Internet deployments in Dallas collapsed earlier this year. The assets were to be sold off to a local utility which planned to use the technology to monitor an electrical grid instead of providing Internet access to around 2 million residents.
· The first smart grid project was launched in 2007. Today Australia, Italy, France, Germany, Hong Kong, USA and Russia are considered to be some of the leading markets in terms of smart grid development.
· Applications for HomePlug technologies include home and business control of lighting, appliances, climate, security and energy consumption. HomePlug product shipments have doubled in the past year or so.
· In Africa, some power utilities are billing as little as 30% of the electricity actually being consumed.
· Countries in South and Central America that have started to develop smart grid technology include Brazil, Colombia, and Venezuela. Latin American utilities are interested in smart grids particularly with a view to reducing theft, a major regional challenge.
· While Middle East Gulf countries are making little use of the technology at home, investment companies from the region are funding smart grid technology companies around the world.

Blog posting Number: 1148

Tags: Powerline technology, Broadband over Powerline

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