Smart Grid Innovations in Energy and Analytics Take Root in San Diego—Previewing Xconomy’s Smart Energy Event

6/7/10Follow @bvbigelow

Over the next decade, San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) and other public utilities in California must undergo a massive transformation in the ways they generate and transmit electricity to meet aggressive regulatory requirements for renewable energy.

We’re starting to see some of those changes today. In less than two years, SDG&E is expected to complete the installation of “smart meters” for more than 1.4 million of its customers. Once activated, the system will act much like a wireless computer network in which millions of devices regularly update their status and transmit their data to the utility’s operating center. The smart meter technology enables the utility to measure its customers’ energy use in detail (eliminating the need for meter readers), and the network will alert operators to outages and other problems.

Once the smart meters are switched on, SDG&E and other utilities also are expected to adopt so-called dynamic pricing that sets electric rates higher during mid-day periods of peak energy demand—and gives customers strong financial incentives to save energy based on their “time of day” usage.

renewable-energyBut many of the most important changes for both utilities and energy consumers haven’t been invented yet—which is one of the major themes running through the Xconomy Forum on “smart energy,” which is set to begin at 1:30 p.m. tomorrow at U.C. San Diego (Online information and registration is here.)

There’s a wide variety of companies in the San Diego area working on smarter ways of generating, distributing, and conserving energy. But one group that hasn’t received much attention yet are the companies in San Diego’s predictive analytics cluster that are now focusing on new ways of analyzing and predicting energy use and other smart grid data.

As the power grid gets “smarter,” innovations will be needed to help meet regulatory requirements under which 33 percent of the power California utilities distribute must come from renewable energy sources by the year 2020. The essential problem, though, is that the electricity generated by solar panels, wind power, and other renewables is intermittent—it increases and decreases as clouds pass overhead and as the winds rise and fall.

Until now, the power grid has operated as a centralized power distribution system, and the key to understanding the problem is in knowing that the system cannot easily store energy (innovation needed!)—so power generation must … Next Page »

Bruce V. Bigelow is the editor of Xconomy San Diego. You can e-mail him at bbigelow@xconomy.com or call (619) 669-8788 Follow @bvbigelow

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