We've got a host of international smart grid news to report this week, starting with the world's biggest future smart grid market -- China.
On Tuesday, General Electric announced a partnership with China's XD Electric Group to combine GE’s grid automation services with XD Electric’s primary power equipment. Within China, the two companies are forming a joint venture to push automation to XD’s existing customers, but the partners intend to expand beyond China, as well.
GE also took a 15 percent equity stake in XD Electric. While XD focuses on high and ultra-high voltage transmission and distribution equipment, GE works across the electric delivery chain.
“This is the beginning of an important relationship between two companies with complementary product lines and commitments to technology. It will enhance GE’s ability to provide end-to-end transmission and distribution solutions and expand our presence in the fastest growing regions of the world,” Bob Gilligan, president and CEO of GE’s Digital Energy business, said in a statement. “Together, GE and XD Electric will become one of the global leaders in comprehensive T&D technology solutions.”
The partnership is expected to begin operations by the end of this year. The two companies will be vying for a part of the smart grid market in China, where there will be up to $600 billion invested in the next decade in electricity infrastructure. Distribution automation alone is worth $6 billion in China, according to GTM Research. Other regions, including the U.S., Europe and South America, are also making substantial investments in grid automation, but nearly every investment is dwarfed by the scope of China, even if China may be seeing a slight slowdown in smart grid.
GE has steadily been positioning itself in Asia. In October 2010, GE purchased an Australian software company to integrate into its SCADA and distribution management offerings. The acquisition was as much about global positioning as expanding its technology. In 2011, GE also bought Converteam, a power conversion company that is active in high growth markets like China and Brazil.
General Electric is hardly the only company focusing on international opportunities. Just a few days ago, Schneider Electric added the M&C Energy Group to a portfolio that will help it get a foothold in the Asia-Pacific market in the energy procurement and sustainability services.
-- While China is the world's single biggest market, there's also a lot of smart grid interest in developing economies like India and Latin America, with a host of smart grid giants involved. The latest is Ventyx, the software arm of grid giant ABB, which has landed new contracts with CDEC-SIC in Chile and UTE in Uruguay to provide its SCADA and energy management system platform.
CDEC-SIC is Chile’s independent system operator that coordinates the operation of the grid that covers more than 90 percent of the country’s population. The Ventyx Network Manager will be used to improve system reliability in Chile.
In Uruguay, Ventyx will be used to replace UTEE’s current SCADA/EMS system and to do automatic generation control, balancing wind with base load generation.
"Modern electric power companies are faced with evolving industry standards and market rules, in addition to ever-growing demands on operational performance. Ventyx is pleased to provide a proven, scalable smart grid solution that not only meets present demands, but will address the future needs of CDEC-SIC and UTE," Oscar Tillberg, vice president and general manager of Ventyx Distribution Operations Solutions, said in a statement.
The two new contracts only expand upon Ventyx’s position in South America, which has been heating up in the past six months. The ABB-owned company also recently established a Center of Excellence in Brazil, to build its local presence.
To compete in emerging markets, ABB is still on a buying spree, according to recent reports. CEO Joe Hogan said that the company is still looking to acquisitions to fill in holes in its offerings worldwide. It's also expecting more news out of Latin America, said Chris Warrington, president for the Americas at Ventyx.
-- In other international smart grid news, Current, which provides smart grid hardware and software, has just expanded its footprint in Europe, where most of its business resides. Two distribution companies, UK Power Networks and Western Power Distribution, selected Current’s power quality analytic sensors for a pilot.
The pilot projects will gather information off the grid to evaluate low carbon technologies for network planning, including demand side management and dealing with network constraints. The projects are funded by the U.K. government’s Office of Gas and Electricity Market’s Low Carbon Networks fund, which is part of the country’s mandate to move to a low-carbon economy.
Current, which is based in Germantown, Md., mostly operates in Europe, but a $13 million funding round in the fall of last year will support its continued growth and Europe, as well as a move into Asia-Pacific markets.