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IEEE: The expertise to make smart grid a reality

Michael Strebl

In this IEEE Smart Grid Expert Spotlight video interview, Michael Strebl, Managing Director of Austrian electricity and gas network operator, Salzburg Netz GmbH, shares details of the company’s main focus areas – building smart grid flagship projects and pilots, developing the techniques, and consumer acceptance and integration to the grid.

In this IEEE Smart Grid Expert Spotlight video interview, Michael Strebl, Managing Director of Austrian electricity and gas network operator, Salzburg Netz GmbH, shares details of the company’s main focus areas – building smart grid flagship projects and pilots, developing the techniques, and consumer acceptance and integration to the grid.


VIDEO TRANSCRIPTION

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We in Salzburg, we have a utility there, it's called Salzburg AG and we are focusing very much on smart grid issues. We have two focuses there. One focus is to build concrete examples and to make demonstration and flagship projects. That's one point. The other point is we really want to focus not only on the development of the technique; we also focus on how is the customer acceptance and customer integration.

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Actually, we run a project bundle in Salzburg, and we are running about 13 projects at the moment. They are partly funded by the Austrian Climate and Energy Fund and partly taken from Salzburg AG. We focus mainly on five big issues of smart grids. We involve electro-mobility. We involve virtual power plants. We involve demand side management, networking, electricity networks, and the fifth focus is how do customers reflect on the smart grids, which is the most typical point about the Salzburg project. We're really focusing on how do customers react in the system.

We are focusing on five major points in Salzburg. We focus on the integration of electro-mobility of electric vehicles. We are focusing on demand side management. We are focusing on virtual power plants. We are focusing on smart meters, and the biggest issue is how do customers react in a smart grid system?

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First of all, you have to say that there is no sense making any innovation which customers do not accept there. You always have to look at do the customers really want all this stuff, and how do I have to persuade even customers to use these things?

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This project is actually running, so we do not have the final results. I can tell you what we have done so far. We involved 600 customers in a project, and we gave them energy feedback methods, different energy feedback methods to give them a feeling of how much energy savings there are. The first group only got a monthly bill. The other group got a monthly bill and they got an e-mail after each bill and an analysis of that. The other group we gave them some measurement for facilities so that they can see it. The other group we gave them kind of energy feedback by optical responses. This experiment at the moment is running, and we will see how the customers react.

It has to be a long-term project because in energy savings, savings are very high at the very beginning. People are interested in that. They look at their meters. They look how the kilowatt hours will go on, but after one week or two weeks, it gets somehow boring. We have a long-term study. It takes us a year. We really want to see how this energy saving develops within one year's project time.

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I think the most important thing is they are not the customers. There are different types of customers. There is one type of customer that really reflect very much on these green issues. For them, it is important, not the price is important to them. It is important that they have the feeling of having green, CO2 free energy. That's very important to them.

The others, they do not want to be bothered with the system at all. They say, okay, you can switch on my heat pump within certain limits. You can switch off my cooling, for example, but don't bother me with that. So, it has to be fully automatic.

Others, on the other hand, say, no, I do want to be involved in the system. I want to see how energy flows develop in Salzburg and how is the whole situation of production and consumption.

The main issue is we do not have the customers. We have a wide span of different customer groups. I think you have to service them for the special interests that they have.

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Well, I think we have a quite good thermal standard in Salzburg. Triple class is almost common or double class at least. We have another situation in Salzburg which is very untypical for Europe. We are very much relying on hydropower. We have 80% hydropower in Salzburg due to our geography. The other one is CHP combined with district heating. We have a very good, efficient, and green energy system.

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This was not really a starting point. It was a process. First of all, we wanted to do kind of innovative things. We started with a fuel cell. This was our first project. We put a fuel cell into a housing estate just to see how it is running. Of course, with the classical meter, gas, and district heating, that's in extent by most so that the people are not freezing there, of course. Then we erected a virtual power plant. Then another group at Salzburg AG, they really investigated quite a lot how is the integration of small renewable energy sources in the network. There were different groups working on different issues. I think it was in 2007 or 2008, we discovered this is all about the same issue. We are talking about different pieces of the same puzzle. Then we put it together and we have quite a holistic approach in Salzburg and that is what we call the model region of Salzburg.

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We're focusing quite a lot on information, not the public because the customer focus is very important to us. We have a newspaper for our customers, and we described our smart grid project there. We have several smart group dialogues, as we call them, where we invite people to come to us and we are discussing all the topics with them.

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We are planning, actually, a school project. We want to build them a kind of smart grid model, a 3D smart grid model to see how the smart grid world or the energy world in 20 years or 15 years will be. We are planning such a project, and we are planning another school project. We want to make them to invent a computer game where the smart grid issue can be discovered in a very, not serious way, but in a very playable way.

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Actually, we have a sister city, in some respect. It's Copenhagen in Denmark. We have a program together with them. It's called Concerto. We have a new district in Salzburg. It was a former kind of industrial district, and it has been completely rebuilt. This was a great chance for us to make a very new modern energy system there. Copenhagen has about the same situation. They had an old brewery which shut down. They erected a new district there. We are working very closely together with them.

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For me, the conference is very interesting maybe for two issues. First, because you get to know other people who are working on the same topic as you are working. The second one is, for me, yesterday I felt very good because I think we are focusing, in Salzburg, on the right issues. The smart grid topic is not a topic which is only important to us. It is important to many, many other players in the world, and that is what I discovered yesterday in the conference.

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