Friday, March 28, 2014
Smart grids: Threat or true innovation?
Smart grid investments are often touted as a way to reinvent the utility industry, but are they really all that innovative? Some experts believe that not all of the changes being driven by these technologies, from smart meters to terminal servers, are having a positive impact on the industry. Michael Burr, editor-in-chief for Public Utilities Fortnightly, recently discussed this trend.
"In the death-spiral vision, renewable energy and distributed energy resources will continue to get cheaper - just as traditional central utility services become more expensive. As customers become their own generators, they drop their former share of the utility's fixed costs onto the backs of other ratepayers, driving more users to seek alternatives to utility power," Burr recently wrote. "At some point, the utility ceases to be a viable business - and the grid falls apart. Only the wealthy will be able to afford first-class electricity service, and the rest will be relegated to price spikes and rolling brownouts."
Of course, this is a rather dramatic view of the industry as a whole, and many find it to be an unlikely scenario. No matter the outcome though, the smart grid is changing the future of utility in unknown ways.
According to Smart Grid News, the future needs to focus on sustainability.
"What is needed is full-blown competition for electricity, with numerous service providers to choose from and a variety of solutions," said Mahesh Bhave, according to the report. "Technologies allow this; a new generation of entrepreneurs has to define new business models."
If the industry is able to keep up with the coming changes, by investing in the appropriate hardware to support smart grids, such as serial to Ethernet converters, providers will be able to adapt to the more self-reliant customers with ease and continue leveraging new technologies for overall growth. If the industry - specifically major players within it - don't continue to evolve, however, they will most likely be swept aside by providers that do. Investing in the Ethernet I/O and other technologies that support a migration to renewable resources and smart grids is the best way to embrace these changes.
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.