'Forget the hype – it's reality for smarts' says BEAMA COO

'Forget the hype – it's reality for smarts' says BEAMA COO

Commenting on the evolution of 'all things smart' at BEAMA's Smart Electricity Systems Conference (3 February 2010, The Belfry, West Midlands), Dr Howard Porter, BEAMA's chief operating officer (COO) said that for smart networks and smart grids: “This is reality – not just hype – it's the future."

He said BEAMA welcomes the Government's phased approach to installing smart metering in all UK homes and SMEs, and the links to future developments for smart grids and smart housing.

"It is particularly refreshing to see the clarity of thinking presented in the 'Smarter Grids: The Opportunity' document. The paper provides a roadmap to 2050 with increased future interaction between the distribution network and energy users. The provision of real time data from smart meters will facilitate enhanced communication between energy providers and energy consumers. A smart grid will also improve the management of the electricity supply network, resulting in a more reliable and effective supply system with lower operating and maintenance costs.

"The breadth of technologies covered by BEAMA members will inter-relate closely to the delivery of the required future smart systems. We are well placed to support DECC and Ofgem through developing the necessary protocols, processes and procedures to ensure the effective delivery of the Government's aspirations for smart metering, networks and housing. The industry brings to the table commercial awareness and technical expertise – we must be actively engaged in any, and all, working groups at the initial Prospectus stage."

'Smart revolution'
Dr Porter stated: "Crucially to make the 'smart revolution' happen and realise the potential smart technology opportunities open to us, the energy and electrical sectors must ensure the right pan-industry skills are in place. We must be on the pulse of - and harness – convergence and the rapid developments in telephony, which will have a major role in network and smart grid solutions.

"Integration across different networks is vital too – new smart technologies cannot be seen in isolation. Our conference addressed the need for UK smart electricity networks, how their introduction relates to broader energy and climate change policy, political ambition and timescale, plus technology opportunities from smart electrical systems.

"Our underlying theme was bringing together networks, buildings and individual transport for a smarter approach to energy management."

Dr Porter welcomed the stimulating views of the speakers who addressed smart related issues across the electrical, energy and communications spectrums. Presentations covered smart grids and networks, the UK smart metering rollout, smart heating solutions and the potential impact of electric vehicles.

Ofgem's Rachel Fletcher called for 'robust systems', 'flexibility' and 'change' in addressing the technology, commercial and regulatory aspects of challenges and opportunities for networks in the move towards a low carbon economy. She said overcoming 'cultural barriers', ensuring 'cultural change', 'joined up systems' and longer-term thinking was essential.

Highlighting Ofgem funding initiatives to help distribution network firms in the low carbon economy, Rachel Fletcher said they must adapt quickly and rise to the low carbon challenge, while expecting profound technological, commercial and regulatory changes. She suggested that network firms must engage fully in the smart metering debate, work closely with other industry partners and understand stakeholder requirements.

Horstmann PRI's Les Woolner advocated that the national smart meter rollout and smart applications need bringing together. For example, by integrated heating and hot water controls, full remote management and smart home initiatives. Control strategies must become more intelligent and deliver required energy savings. While, advanced wireless systems and user interfaces must evolve to address inclusive design and 'usability' issues. Consumers will demand simple, but effective control solutions. Interoperability is key he said.

Roger Hey of Central Networks cited an ethos of 'vision with action' and the need to get on with changing energy characteristics, viewing networks as 'enablers'. Suggesting that electromobility via electric vehicles will increasingly have a big impact as trials are indicating, he said networks will change in the changing low carbon transition with low carbon heating and electricity leading to a smarter local grid. Networks can be strengthened and made more intelligent to support this, he said.

Dr Porter continued: "As George Williamson of Openreach prophetically suggested from the communications perspective, telephony technology convergence will underpin energy networks and smart grids. The smart arena needs to be aware of the impact of changing broadband and mobile comms products, which he said are evolving at a dramatic pace with next generation developments seeing higher speed access, smart phones, VoIP, network back-up concurrency, more internet-TV and video applications.

"We must take onboard his view that the smart grid must address such consumer needs and encompass super fast fibre access, complementary fixed/mobile networks, with network applications becoming media rich and interactive. He is right when he says smart grids must reflect these trends and opportunities.

"Ten years back who would have thought we'd have the fast-moving mobile telecoms products we use daily today? The next decade will bring just as signifcant advances and the electrical systems and energy industries must be up-to-speed and fully integrate such telephony innovation to ensure the future challenges for smart developments are met and the opportunities maximised."

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