UCLA Smart Grid Thought Leadership Forum

Smart grid - Fusion of Advanced Technologies, Government Policy, Consumer Input and the Electric Infrastructure

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

UCLA Campus
Los Angeles, CA 90095

To register for the forum click here.

Join UCLA's Smart Grid Energy Research Center (SMERC) and UCLA WINMEC at its upcoming Smart Grid Thought Leadership Forum. This leadership forum will focus on Fusion of Advanced Technologies, Government Policy, Consumer Input and Electric Infrastructure to create the Smart grid of the future.

With the rapid deployment of smart meters across the country, the pulse for highly granular electricity monitoring at the customer premises is now available to several utilities. Networked smart meters are allowing utilities to monitor the last mile of the grid at a level of detail - in space and time - that has never been possible before. Such a fine grained monitoring capability is enabling the creation of a much larger network within the grid than previously possible. The ability to monitor this Smart grid at various levels is resulting in an opportunity to also control the grid at these levels. As an example, utilities/consumers would theoretically be able to exercise control over whether a given residential solar rooftop should at a given point in time send energy back to the grid, or whether an EV's battery should provide reverse power flow into the grid in case of a cloud covering the rooftop solar, or, whether a given HVAC in a building should be turned off during a peak consumption period on a hot summer's afternoon by way of a Demand Response signal. A variety of technologies exist today that would allow some of the above to be feasible, while other technologies may still need to be invented. However, would the consumers be willing accept the changes that are sweeping across the world in the electricity delivery industry is a topic that would go through several iterations of trial-and-error. Additionally, incentivizing the consumer, whether on price incentives, or social incentives, would play a major role in the adoption and success of such technologies. Pricing options from policy makers should encourage the offering of differentiated products and services from the utilities and other partner service providers to the consumer. Policy makers need to be integrally involved with utilities, vendors and consumers in making the grid "friendlier" as it gets technologically more advanced. All of the above result in rapid changes to the grid, moving towards a Smart grid, in the near future. This would result in challenges and opportunities for the electric power grid operators. Researchers and academics, for their part, would need to study the grid features that enable consumer satisfaction, improved efficiencies and rapid and easy integratability of renewable energy sources and electric vehicles/transportation. The Thought Leadership Forum will address the rapid changes to the grid as it gets smarter.

One of the major changes in the grid as we fast forward to the next 20 years is that the Grid of the Future could potentially look more like the Internet. On the Internet, data is created and consumed by decentralized nodes in the network. On the electric grid while consumption is largely decentralized, as solar rooftops come on-line, the new generation sources would be more decentralized. While management of centralized generation is an area that utilities understand very well, if generation is intermittent and it is also geographically distributed, the existing grid control paradigms such as the SCADA networks may not work exactly in the manner as for the traditional hierarchically controlled grid. The utility on its part would therefore need to balance the local fluctuations in demand and supply which would imply the need for more refined monitoring as well as control. Substantial technological challenges and opportunities confront the power industry as we move towards a smarter and more modern grid.

Why do we need a Smart grid?
The reasons to move towards a Smart grid are manifold. First, the U.S. electric grid is technologically somewhat dated, and large parts of it have not seen a major modernization upgrade recently. The recent power outage in Southern California could be an indication of this (Southwest blackouts: How do power outages spread? http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-14863000). Second, with increasing availability of lower cost renewable solar and wind technologies, especially in the backdrop of high prices in fossil fuel-based energy, renewables are becoming increasingly attractive, however, integrating such intermittent resources requires a Smart grid. In this context, policies in various parts of the world are also playing an important role in the adoption of renewables. Third, smart grid technologies can help improve control, efficiency and flexibility of the grid, reduce outages, and help manage high-priced peaks in energy consumption via Demand Response. Fourth, a Smart grid is essential to enable management, optimization and control of power flows in the presence of Electric Vehicles especially as their numbers increase. Fifth, but perhaps not last, the consumer today is very conscious of environment and energy related issues and the existing grid offers the consumer little opportunity to give their preferences in terms of what type of energy they wish to purchase, etc. In every industry the consumer is the most important driver of change and innovation, and the electric grid sector would be no exception. The above topics would provide the thematic basis for the Thought Leadership discussions.

Why does the Thought Leadership need Fusion of the above?
Advanced technology alone does not create user-friendly products or services. It is the advanced technology which is iteratively refined by the consumer that is using it, and that enables the technology to be adaptively become innovative and user friendly. This innovation process needs the constant support of government policies by way of appropriate incentivization, which is the responsibility of the policy makers. An example of an innovation is a mobile smart phone which contains sophisticated technology that was spurred by the availability of large amounts of wireless spectrum made available by the policy makers and coupled with technical innovations in display, software, apps, embedded computers and high speed wide area networks, which in turn was used and iteratively refined by the consumer. Likewise the smart grid needs to be nurtured by the ecosystem of the key stakeholders so that it can iteratively get more sophisticated, refined, useful, user-friendly, reliable, and have the ability to incorporate innovative technologies such as EVs, battery storage, renewables such as wind and solar technologies, and the resulting enabling benefits such as Demand Response, Grid Balancing, Efficiency Improvements, Grid Reliability or Grid Flexibility.

Content of Thought Leadership Forum
The forum will present a fusion of diverse topics from speakers representing the gamut of ecosystem players including utilities, technology providers, vendors, policy makers, researchers, government officials, standards organizations and academics. This forum would form the genesis for the next level of Thought Leadership in the series of forums that have been organized by UCLA SMERC. This Forum will present concepts, implementations, demonstrations, technologies, research, business/economic/engineering models and implementations that are based on fusion of the following subject matters - Advanced Technologies, Modern grid policies, Consumer Behavior and the Future Electric grid Infrastructure.

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