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Municipal utility providers entering the smart grid game

By Donna Donnawitz
June 6, 2013

Smart grid technology can give you an opportunity to use home electricity monitoring and management applications to understand exactly how much power you use, how it is drawn by various appliances and how much you pay for power during different times of day. A long-term vision for this functionality could see consumers using smart appliances, electric vehicles and other emerging solutions in conjunction with the smart grid to control their power use patterns to minimize costs and maximize efficiency. All of this functionality echoes out from utility providers, who are able to support this kind of functionality and deliver key power use data because the grid itself has become more intelligent.

Achieving this future vision for a much more sustainable world depends on the smart gird. In theory, the grid can be used to develop a deeper understanding of energy supply chains, become more dependent on renewable resources and streamline power delivery across the entire energy landscape. The results could be revolutionary. However, reaching this future ideal depends on getting a wide range of electric companies involved. According to a recent study from GTM Research, municipal utility providers are beginning to take the first steps toward smart grid involvement.

Municipal utility companies and the smart grid
According to the news source, early smart grid adoption was led by investment-backed electric companies. This has created a great deal of diversity in the market. Furthermore, these leaders often ended up figuring out the best ways to deploy and use the technology through trial and error, leading to plenty of fragmentation in the sector.

At this point, smart grid solutions have begun to move beyond the early adopter phase. Organizations getting involved in the smart grid now have access to best practices, use cases and other key starting points. The report said municipal utility providers are among the companies that could capitalize on the current smart grid market climate. Through 2017, municipal utility companies will likely contribute approximately $7 billion to the smart grid market.

As fragmented smart grids and new municipal solutions take shape in the market, integration between diverse technologies is becoming critical, the study found.

Using terminal servers and media converters to resolve interoperability challenges
Hardware diversity represents one of the greatest integration roadblocks utility providers have to face, as electric companies have to deal with legacy network systems, contemporary connectivity systems and specialized serial technologies. Terminal servers and media converters can play a vital role in alleviating compatibility gaps across the entire smart grid landscape.

Perle offers a range of cost effective serial-to-Ethernet converters to help meet NERC-CIP compliance for the protection of critical cyberassets in substations. The IOLAN SDS HV/LDC Terminal Server is designed to meet harsh environments associated with Power Substations with attributes such as support for substation AC and DC voltage ranges, extended operating temperatures and meeting emission, immunity and safety approvals associated with substation IT equipment.


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