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IEEE: The expertise to make smart grid a reality

Thierry Pollet

Our next video interview in the series from the IEEE Smart Grid World Forum in Brussels is with Thierry Pollet, Associate Vice President of Energy Global Business Development Smart Grid, AMI solutions for Alcatel-Lucent. In this insightful conversation, Thierry provides real world examples of smart grid demonstrations and pilots from around the world, and valuable lessons learned about consumer behavior.

Our next video interview in the series from the IEEE Smart Grid World Forum in Brussels is with Thierry Pollet, Associate Vice President of Energy Global Business Development Smart Grid, AMI solutions for Alcatel-Lucent. In this insightful conversation, Thierry provides real world examples of smart grid demonstrations and pilots from around the world, and valuable lessons learned about consumer behavior.


VIDEO TRANSCRIPTION

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Yes, in my role with Alcatel-Lucent, I am performing business development for the various regions related to smart grids. Smart grids, meaning a focus on AMI, and a focus on distribution. I'm following up a number of research activities in that space.

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We are involved in projects over the various regions, in America, South Korea, and in Belgium, with various focuses. Let me give a few examples. One of the projects where we are involved is trying to understand how the behavior of end users can be influenced, and asking them to participate in becoming more efficient. For that we are interrogating and working with thousands of end users to understand their profiles, like how they would like to interact with the grids, and what devices they would like to consume when improving their energy efficiency.

Another project is more related to, how do you roll out smart meters? How do you roll out advanced services related to demand side management? How do you do real time balancing? What are the new economic models that come into place when consumption and production have to work according to a new paradigm? Currently, production is following consumption and the paradigm will be reversed.

So how do you interact with the end points located at the consumers, at the small and medium enterprises, as to make sure that production follows demand? How do you interact with the end customers to change his behavior so that your production can be tuned, in interaction with the end user, to an optimal working point.

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Well, we have learned first of all that it is very difficult to change the behavior of end customers, end users. We are trying to identify which are the various mechanisms that we could apply for changing the end user's behavior as to become more energy efficient, cost efficient. A number of mechanisms could come from organizations like the government or the regulator, in terms of feeding information to the end user. We can hand the end user a number of tools with which it is possible for him to interact better with the electricity grids. There have been trials with the installation of in-home displays. There have been trials with increasing the intelligence inside the home, so that the end user does not have to worry about how the interaction with the grid is to be, that all of this is done intelligently, automatically.

We are looking in to how end users are behaving in direct load control situations, meaning services where utilities are controlling the consumption of end devices in the home. We are investigating how customers react on various pricing schemes, introducing time of use, introducing peak pricing.

So there is a kind of spectrum of mechanisms with which we could interact with the end user. We have not yet found the Holy Grail for end user behavior change in energy, but there are a number of tools out there.

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One of the points of research is the segmentation of the end user population. We have done studies to understand what segments of end users are susceptible to what trigger for change. We recently have finalized a study that is segmenting the end user market into what are called personas. Persona is a representation of a particular segment of end users that will react on behavioral triggers in a particular way. We have come up with about eight specific of these personas, where we now work with further in research to understand how they best interact with behavioral change triggers.

What I also see is that in the educational system, energy awareness and energy efficiency is much more promoted. So it may be interesting to see how kids today will help the family move to a more efficient environment.

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I would say that when we were doing the first interviews with the end user, what we observed was that intuitively end users were very interested in becoming more energy efficient, becoming more cost efficient related to their energy consumption. So when we categorized the end users' markets in early adopters and laggards, it was amazing to see that from an emotional perspective there was a large chunk of end users that was leaning towards the early adopter market. Now, as you rightfully mentioned, once we get into the reality of end users having to interact with the grid as systems become available, you see indeed that the change is not so straightforward. So you're right, end users generally speaking are difficult to move from behavior. Automation certainly can play a role in helping the end user intuitively act differently than today.

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The nature of the conference was that we attempted here to bring a number of high level speakers that could make a number of statements outside the environment of a strict commercial context. The IEEE permits such a atmosphere, and it allowed these high level speakers to go, somehow, beyond the boundaries of enterprise communications. It allowed more creativity to be brought into the discussions, and that's why I find this conference a very good conference on smart grids.

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But there were a number of provocative statements. Of course, some stated that the grid is already there. In transmission, we're already at the second generation of smart grids, that there is not much need for further investigation. There were other statements stating that well, we are in the very early stages of smart grids. There were interesting views on experiences of utilities that do have hold outs in communications towards the end points. There is the confirmed statement that we need to evolve to a more converged solution in terms of networking and protocols, as to enable the smart grids.

So bottom line, I see a number of statements that kind of emphasized the major trends in the smart grids, and then there were in combination with a number of confronting statements in order to challenge the public and a discussion with the attendees of the conference.

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Well, my view is that today if you look at the smart grids, it is still a very heterogeneous set of communication tools, protocols, software environments. In order to come to the true smart grids, we have to come to a unified communications protocol and data and software environments, which just is not there yet today.

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Sure. I believe that as we will see more advanced applications appearing in the grid, that the criticality of communications will increase. Let's take a specific domain of smart grids, demand management. Today we have an introduction of metering towards the end points, primarily for the meter to cash process. Collect the billing data from the meter, apply editing, validation, generate a billing determinance, and from them generate the bill to send out to the customers to inform them much more accurately and more frequently than ever before.

The next phase of applications will be related to demand response. Interact with the end customer so that he can adjust his consumption according to the available production, production that will change more frequently, because of the introduction of intermittent supply sources.

Then we go to advance demand side systems. As we move along from meter to cash to demand response, the need for interactivity with the end user increases. In the first case, daily interaction, collecting the data, in the later case, frequent interaction on a 15 minute basis, 5 minute basis, in order to understand the consumption pattern of the end user and to interact with that.

Let us look at another domain, the balancing domain. Today there exist the balancing needs at the transmission network. These will be extended towards the distribution network, because of interaction of the distribution network with small scale intermittent energy supply from solar panels or from windmills. There will be a need for balancing in the distribution network because of the introduction of electrical cars. This will require more advanced communications to be extended from the transmission network towards the distribution network, and finally from generation to the very end point in the customer home.

So yes, we are confronted with a need for a very open converged network running from the supply side till the home environment, going beyond the meter, even inside the home environment to interact with appliances in the home, CHP, the freezer, your TV set, your heat pump.

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We are regulated, but we can, of course, tell the regulator that if we want smart grids to happen, there are some bottlenecks because of cost, because of operational standards, and then there might be changes and that is one of my main tasks inside the company to look for the bottlenecks that will hinder us to enable the smart grid development.

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That is a very interesting question. We will be confronted with a tsunami of data – meters producing data every 15 minutes, interval data, actual data, billing data, sensors along the distribution network for sensing the quality of the line, the stability of the line. All this data will be flooding across the grids. So we are in the need for a data layer that is very distributed, that can correlate data, capture data, store and cache data, process data, and where in the back office applications data intelligent algorithms can be applied for a number of purposes. So overall, a part of the pure communications perspective, a solution related to highly scalable, distributed data management, mediation, and correlation is required.

Today we see solutions brought in the market related to that problem. For instance, there is a segment in the smart grid sector, so-called meter data management. Today it basically has the capability to capture the data from the smart devices, from the smart meters and then store the data for several years, apply intelligence on that data. This will not only remain specifically for smart metering. It will be extended for being able to capture data related to devices in the home beyond the smart meter, and it will be used for capturing data and analyzing data, and mediating data from devices in the distribution grid.

So we will see the amount of data virtually explodes, and this is a great challenge for the smart grid.

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