February, 17th 2013- In 2006, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security‘s Critical Infrastructure Task Force recommended that the objective of critical infrastructure planning be shifted from critical infrastructure “protection” to critical infrastructure “resilience.”
“Protection, in isolation, is a brittle strategy,” the Task Force concluded. “We cannot protect every potential target against every conceivable attack; we will never eliminate all vulnerabilities.”
This paradigm shift has especially important implications for the electric power grid. Simply put, in the context of the electric grid, resilience is not reliability.
Reliability refers to the grid’s ability to provide customers with electricity during normal “blue sky” operations. By contrast, resilience refers to the power grid’s ability to either remain operational during disruptions or “degrade gracefully when it must.” In other words, the electric grid’s resilience is a measure of how well it can absorb the impact of hurricanes, high winds and severe snow storms. By this standard, the electric grid is spectacularly un-resilient in many of parts of the United States.
Many of the mature enterprise energy management solutions available on the market were designed to promote reliability through protection and prevention.
For example, Lockheed Martin’s Enterprise Energy Management called SEEView is tailored to the needs of electric grid operators. Per Lockheed’s SEEView brochure:
SEEview seamlessly integrates EMS, DMS, GIS, OMS, AMI, CIS and other systems to help utilities respond quickly to disruptive conditions such as rapidly rising wholesale market prices, the unexpected lack of renewable energy availability, potential emissions violations or electric vehicle recharging hot spots. The ability to monitor all key enterprise systems from a single browser allows utilities to continuously optimize their generation mix, carbon footprint, customer satisfaction and profitability while complying with a growing mix of emissions, security and renewable energy regulations.
The SEEView platform prevents disruptions to the electric power grid. In other words, it seems more focused on protection than resilience. In the context of enterprise energy management, resilience solutions are tailored to the needs of the grid’s customers not the grid’s operators.
Blue Pillar, an Indianapolis-based enterprise energy software start up, is a case in point.
Founded in 2006, Blue Pillar has pioneered a “system of subsystems” software platform called the ”Digital Energy Network,” which provides the grid’s customers rather than the grid’s operators with a clutch of command and control capabilities. The Digital Energy Network allows organizations to manage the full spectrum of distributed generation assets as a fleet, which enhances business continuity, reduces enterprise risk and transforms cost centers into profit centers.
When the grid is up, the Network turns ideal energy assets into revenue-generating assets by managing run-times to reduce peak demand and enabling cost-effective participation in various regulatory and competitive programs and markets – e.g., demand response. When the grid is down, the Network enhances customers’ ability to ride through temporary power disruptions and prolonged blackouts.
Blue Pillar has deployed its network platform on 50 sites encompassing over 1,050 endpoints, representing over 150 megawatts of capacity in major demand response markets. According to Pike Research, Blue Pillar “is focused first on [immediate ROI] mission-critical healthcare campus infrastructure to capture greater value from existing on-site generation by selling [demand response] services to grid operators and utilities.”
The Center for American Progress (CAP) recently predicted that a constellation of emerging trends would converge around the concept of networked energy and, the process, create a fundamentally new engineering model for managing energy. In The Networked Energy Web, CAP authors, Bracken Hendricks and Adam James, described these converging trends like so:
Today we stand at the cusp of the next major transformation—one that connects the ongoing technology innovations in telecommunications and information technology with the emergence of intelligent, efficient, and cleaner energy networks. Three core technologies are rapidly converging, unlocking new productivity gains in our energy system that come from modern information technology-enabled networks. First, distributed energy generation is enabling efficient, decentralized energy production close to the point of use by consumers, integrating energy generation more fully into our homes, offices, and factories. Second, this trend coincides with new potential for improved energy efficiency in buildings, which substitutes better use of information for the wasteful use of energy and dramatically reduces the need for electricity production. Finally, both of these changes are being enabled through the integration of smart grid technology in the power transmission and distribution grid, which moves not only electrons but also information effectively through our energy networks.
Like Blue Pillar, PowerSecure, a Wake Forest, NC-based veteran of the energy services industry, is also jockeying for position in the networked energy space. PowerSecure’s Interactive Distributed Generation platform is custom-engineered to monetize on-site power assets efficiently through proprietary operating algorithms that optimized run times – think peak shaving and demand response capacity products.
by William Pentland
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