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John Arnold, managing director and Larry Cochrane, industry technology strategist of Microsoft’s worldwide power and utilities industry division, explain the software behind smart grid systems.
Smart grid is the hot topic on every utility executive’s mind around the world.
The European Commission estimates that €1 trillion will be spent improving Europe’s electricity network and generation capacity by 2030 in response to supply challenges, security requirements and climate change.
As a result, the deployment of smart grids will play an important role. In France, some €6.2 billion will be spent on smart grid initiatives from 2009-2016.
In the UK, new meters will be installed with in-home information displays over the next 10 years - a total of 26 million installed at an estimated cost of £7 billion to £9 billion. According to a recent IDC report, in EMEA intelligent grid IT spending will reach $8 billion in 2010 and this is expected to grow by 27% in the next three years.
In the United States it is estimated that some $70 billion will be spent on smart grid projects in the next few years, and that many tens of billions more will be spent at utilities around the world.
Additionally, in November 2008, the Chinese government approved a $629 billion stimulus plan, including approximately $169 billion for utilities. And, the Indian government currently has a programme underway that has an estimated $1.5 billion targeted for smart grid technologies.
As the Hindustan Times puts it, “India is gasping for energy,” with 76 million rural households that have never turned on their first light bulb, and projections for 700,000 megawatts of additional generation to support its expanding economy and population.
Approximately $450 million will be invested in smart grid projects in Australia, Sweden, Switzerland and Turkey in the next few years, according to news reports.
US Federal government involvement in smart grid development also will provide significant impetus, and business opportunities. For example, President Barack Obama recently announced $3.4 billion in government grants to improve the efficiency of the nation’s electric power transmission network.
The grants will be used to replace the country’s ageing electricity transmission system with smart-grid technologies to improve transmission efficiency and reliability and accommodate additional energy generation sources.
The smart grid, or smart energy ecosystem as Microsoft defines it, becomes smart by injecting software into the various control points in the power system, so that households and businesses have ready access to timely, user-friendly information that can help them make smart choices about their energy use.
While adding data acquisition solutions to a smart energy ecosystem helps provide additional, valuable data, the real benefit will be the insights created by the integration of ecosystem-wide information and the analysis and presentation of the information.