Discover how the global transformation of the electricity industry and the development of smart energy cities represent a once-in-a-generation growth opportunity
Throughout the 20th century, power systems were built and maintained like one-way streets, running electricity from carbon-burning power generation stations, across transmission lines, and finally to consumers. The idea of consumer-generated solar and wind power flowing in the opposite direction was inconceivable.
That’s not the case today. As more consumers install smart devices and renewable energy generators at home, utilities are racing to build the two-way street needed to receive and redistribute power produced by their customers.
“More than ever before, our customers will be our partners in managing and producing energy, through our smart grid infrastructure,” says Gaëtan Thomas, CEO of NB Power, “having microgrids that cluster consumer generators together allows us to avoid burning fossil fuels or building new, large, and expensive power plants.” To do that, NB Power entered into a partnership with global energy solutions provider Siemens. “When we started in 2012, our primary goal was to create a smart grid that guarantees system-wide reliability while integrating additional renewable energy sources.”
Electrical systems are similar to the circulatory system in your body. Like your blood pressure, if the amount of electricity on the grid is too high or too low, it can cause the system to crash. The potential of thousands of customers putting energy onto the network in different amounts at different times presents a significant challenge to utilities, one that NB Power and Siemens Canada are solving together in a way that is attracting global attention.
More than ever before, our customers will be our partners in managing and producing energy, through our smart grid infrastructure.
GAËTAN THOMAS, CEO of NB Power
“NB Power has the longest electricity value conversion chain in North America with the ability to run a nuclear power plant all the way down to a family’s water heater—from creation to consumption,” says Richard Wunderlich, Head of Siemens Power Technologies International (PTI) Business Segment in Canada. “That ability, to enable consumers to participate in the grid is currently nonrepeatable in any other system and now a global reference project for Siemens.” Together, the two companies have co-created, tested and implemented some of the software, products and business processes needed to operate a fullyfunctioning smart grid. Their progress also led to the establishment of the Smart Grid Innovation Network and Siemens’ Global Centre for Cybersecurity in Fredericton, New Brunswick.
“We help companies get over the hurdles of getting into smart grid space,” says David Beauvais, Innovation Officer of the Smart Grid Innovation Network (SGIN). “We set up labs within Siemens, NB Power and the University of New Brunswick to assist companies in taking a product from an idea, through research and development, and then testing on the grid.” They also help with product and market validation. To date, there are currently over 30 companies from across Canada that have connected with SGIN.
That ability, to enable consumers to participate in the grid is currently non-repeatable in any other system and now a global reference project for Siemens.
RICHARD WUNDERLICH, Head of Siemens Power Technologies International (PTI) Business Segment in Canada
Over the past 25 years, New Brunswick has built a reputation for being one of the most comprehensive living labs for the development and market validation of products, impacting the way everyday people live their lives and conduct business. Some of those innovations include voicemail, the teleconference bridge, internet protocol television (IPTV) and voice over internet protocols (VoIP), the leading social media monitoring software, digital maps, iron-clad cybersecurity systems, and the list goes on. With over 60 research organizations, telecommunications expertise, and one of the lowestcost ultra-high-speed gigabit fiber optic networks, Fredericton has become the starting point for many companies in the midst of developing new products and services for smart grids.
One of those companies is Simptek Technologies, a startup company whose software, combined with a smart meter, can detect and report the energy usage of individual appliances in your home or business. Users can see exactly how they are consuming energy and create both usage and financial goals, and, using big data algorithms, compare your usage to others and make suggestions for better energy management or new, more efficient machines. Their collaboration with NB Power led to business with commercial real estate companies, saving them hundreds of thousands of dollars in energy costs.
“At NB Power, we call this the fusion between electric and communications systems, two things that were once wholly separate, and it’s an enormous, complicated task for power companies building smart grids,” says Thomas. “This fusion is opening the door for opportunities in every aspect of what we do from energy management to smart devices, and the way we make transactions with our customers. Utilities can only accomplish this with partnerships.” Thomas expects many of those opportunities to be explored and discussed at SGIN’s annual Energy Innovations Forum in October.
Aimed at engineering and ICT professionals, tradespeople, smart energy businesses, utilities, NGOs, policymakers, and regulators, the purpose of the conference is to spark ideas and partnerships that lead to new export opportunities. “There is no better moment to participate in this changing industry, to get in on the ground floor whatever your expertise is, and it is multidisciplinary,” says Beauvais. “If you are passionate about the energy sector or climate change, come to the conference. We need your brain. We need your energy.” Over two days, attendees will hear from experts on the development of microgrids, community energy trading and blockchain technology, energy storage, and much more.
In the past, large manufacturers were the innovators, but today we’re finding more solutions coming from outside the main industry, at a pace that’s making a large impact.
KATHERINE HAMILTON, Chair of 38 North Solutions & Conference Speaker
“In the past, large manufacturers were the innovators, but today we’re finding more solutions coming from outside the main industry, at a pace that’s making a large impact,” says Katherine Hamilton, Chair of the Washington-based energy consulting firm 38 North Solutions, and conference speaker. “What entrepreneurs need to figure out is the best place to deploy their products, and whether or not they can participate in the market that they want to enter. Policy and regulations can be a brick wall in some jurisdictions.” Hamilton says that’s because, for many power companies and authorities, the status quo remains very strong. For example, the aggregation of consumer-generated power on the grid is forbidden in many parts of the United States, while it is highly encouraged in other countries like Germany.
“People want to invest in photovoltaics (solar) on their residential roof. People want to green their consumption, and as the cost of renewables comes down, consumer demand will increase for selling the surplus energy they can’t use or store,” says Wunderlich. “It’s vital that people are aware that there is an innovation hub in Atlantic Canada where entrepreneurs are solving problems, creating solutions and exporting them abroad.”
What’s for sure is that new technology that is enabling people and communities to generate and manage power consumption on their own is outpacing what many age-old energy behemoths can handle. Utilities will need to begin transforming as the business model is rapidly changing. In New Brunswick, NB Power and Siemens have been out in front of this transformation since they launched their smart grid partnership in 2012 and set out to build a foundation for a managed transition to this new world. It’s a world that will provide tremendous opportunities for the development of new, state-of-the-art microgrids in countries still struggling to electrify in a stable, reliable manner. Where many developing countries without hard-wired telecommunications networks leapt to wireless in a short number of years, and by the millions, it’s highly likely that they’ll do the same thing for electricity. This is a once-in–a-generation opportunity and understanding how you can be part of it is what the Energy Innovation Forum is all about.
Energy Innovations Forum 2018
October 1-2, 2018
Fredericton, New Brunswick