On the island of Jeju off of South Korea, a smart grid revolution might be underway. The project, which has already been in the planning stages for years, is not merely a pilot to test a home area network or a few smart switches on the grid. Instead, Korea Electric Power Company test bed is the world’s largest smart grid community to try out business models and technologies and then translate them into a plan for the rest of the country.

One of the recent developments is the Total Operations Center that will be operated by IBM, one of the many corporate partners involved in the project. The center is an integrated energy management system, not just for KEPCO, but also for the other 160 companies -- including SK Telecom, Hyundai and LG -- operating at Jeju to monitor smart grid data and information on international markets.

"This collaboration with KEPCO will not only improve operational efficiencies at the complex but will also help drive the development of international standard technologies in the Korean smart grid market, allowing domestic businesses to operate and compete at an international level," said Guido Bartels, General Manager, Energy and Utilities industry at IBM and Chairman, Global Smart Grid Federation. 

The data is useful to different players in different ways, said Michael Valocchi, VP and Industry Lead for Global Business Services, Energy & Utilities at IBM. Someone might want to get 15-minute interval data and look at it every two hours, while another company might want to analyze three-hour data once a day. “It’s a more robust and complete solution,” he added. The advantage of having it all in one place, rather than companies sharing it on an ad-hoc basis, also means that the best solutions are likely to come to market faster.

The announcement of the center was made at IBM’s semi-annual Global Intelligent Utility Network Coalition (GIUNC) meeting. KEPCO, which is a coalition member, will also be sharing many of the results of the test bed with the other GIUNC members.

The Jeju model could have worldwide implications for smart grid technologies if cheaper, better solutions can be hashed out instead of relying on the piecemeal pilot approach of other regions, such as the U.S. South Korea sees energy and energy efficiency as one of its next big export markets. Samsung has laid plans to become the world’s largest solar provider by 2015 from a base in 2009 of effectively zero. The company recently agreed to build $1.6 billion worth of factories and other facilities in Ontario, Canada. Both LG and Samsung have also unfurled initiatives to reduce power consumption in their upscale household appliances.

Within South Korea, it is assumed that Jeju will result in the world-class smart grid that can be implemented in the whole country. Last year, the country’s Ministry of Knowledge Economy released a two-page report that hits all the high points in its plan for smart grid deployment through 2030, with hard targets for everything from advanced metering infrastructure to EV quick-charging stations and microgrid communications. 

To get to a whole solution, “you really need something like this,” said Valocchi. By doing individual pilots, “We might get to the complete solution eventually, but there’d be more trial and error." But South Korea is looking to make a splash, not a trickle, into the smart grid market. “The time to market is going to be very rapid,” said Valocchi.