Indian Wells, Calif. -- Greentech Media's TNG 2010, The Networked Grid 2010, is on today and tomorrow in the California desert.  It's a full house, with more than 300 people representing utilities, equipment vendors, software vendors, policy makers, media and smart grid groupies in attendance.

Mike Montoya, the Director of Engineering Advancement at Southern California Edison, gave today's keynote:

What do we need to realize a smarter grid?

  • PEV integration
  • Cost-effective energy storage
  • Commercial products based on open, non-proprietary standards that are secure
  • Seamless and secure telecom infrastructure that integrates millions of intelligent devices to produce actionable information that is used to control the electric system
  • A workforce with the skills and knowledge to deal with the dramatic changes ahead

Montoya set the audience straight, saying, "There's a lot of smart grid hype today but it's not going to happen overnight -- it's going to be a 30-year road map."

Southern California Edison serves an area that covers 50,000 square miles, 15 million people and about 5 million electric meters.  They see themselves as a leader in renewable energy but are bracing themselves for the seismic shifts ahead in response to current and upcoming changes in state and federal policies.

Here are some major big-picture trends according to Montoya:

  • Customer empowerment -- HANs dovetailing with smart meters
  • Reducing energy usage
  • Integrating electric vehicles
  • The importance of electric storage
  • The necessity of re-educating their workforce

And here are some thoughts and questions on the impacts of renewables and EVs on the grid:

  • With an impending goal of 20 percent renewables and a executive order from the governator for 33 percent renewables by 2020, Montoya sees energy storage as crucial. That 33 percent will be "a real challenge," according to Montoya.
  • With solar at home and wind power in parking lots, the grid is going to have to take on this new power.  Montoya's concern is, "What is that going to do to the transmission systems?"
  • 500 megawatts of rooftop solar coming online seems like it wouldn't be a problem on a distribution system like SCE's, but it is a challenge because of the way those rooftops are clustered.
  • Very few if any of the solar photovoltaic inverter manufacturers have tested their devices in dynamic situations, according to Montoya.  (I think SatCon, SMA, GE and PV Powered might have something to say about that.)
  • How do we better plan for wind and other renewable resources? Intermittent generation not matching load means that the signal does not stay steady at 60 hertz.
  • PHEVs will be another challenge -- two peaks a day will drive the lifetime of transformers way down.
  • The system will need better monitoring and control on the transmission system; synchrophasors allow you to look at the condition of the system -- more like an MRI for the network, compared to today's X-ray.

Continued coverage from the Networked Grid in Palm Springs to come....