FOCUS: Smart Grid 2016
• German American Chambers of Commerce (GACCNY)
• Consulate General of the Federal Republic of Germany New York
On November 2nd, 2016, the German Center for Research and Innovation (GCRI) New York, the German Consulate General in New York and the German American Chamber of Commerce hosted the seventh annual “Focus: Smart Grid 2016” panel discussion. The panelists embraced the development of smart grids with respect to energy efficiency and power outages in emergency situations. Regulations, standards, and cybersecurity were also discussed.
Dr. Joann Halpern, director of the GCRI New York, and the moderator, Dr. Kurt Becker from the NYU Tandon School of Engineering, welcomed the audience, which included a cleantech delegation and several startups from Berlin.
The first speaker, Dr. Christian Hoepfner, director of the Fraunhofer Center for Sustainable Energy Systems, introduced the Energy Transformation Index (ETI), which plots the share of renewable energy on the primary energy demand and the energy efficiency of the economy in different countries. According to the ETI, large industrial countries, like Germany and the United States, have increased their share of renewable energy and energy efficiency, but there is still room for significant improvement.
Dr. Hoepfner stated that one of the greatest challenges is the integration of large amounts of renewable energy into the distribution and transmission grid. In his comparison of the smart grid situations in Germany and the United States, he noted that a driving factor in Germany is the integration of renewable energies into the distribution grid and in the United States, resilience is a larger issue. Dr. Hoepfner then described the SunDial Project, a pilot project funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, which integrates renewables by storing solar power in large batteries. This is an attempt to keep the costs of renewable energy affordable for consumers. Dr. Hoepfner also emphasized the importance of using open source software platforms during pilot projects to enable transactional energy management.
The next speaker, Mr. Bala Ram from SAP, addressed innovation and security issues for the smart grid market. Key drivers of smart grid innovation, according to Mr. Ram, include population growth and the expansion of cities. Mr. Ram pointed out that all of these trends turn the grid into an opportunity for new players to enter the market. Mr. Ram emphasized the importance of correct and reliable data analysis, since the data from the grid can drive innovation. However, data analytics has issues like data security and data reliability. Especially for the transmission side, the data can improve mission learning, predictive analytics, demand analytics and possibilities to balance renewables and conventional energies in the grid. Moreover, it allows companies to offer more valuable services to consumers. Mr. Ram also provided examples of hyper-connectivity, super-computing, cloud computing, and cyber security, which impact data in the grid as well as an overview of the different areas in which data could reshape the utility industry.
The third speaker, Mr. J. Andrew Martin from FEMA (Region II), addressed the issue of energy resiliency and possible ramifications of the grid breaking down in emergency situations. Mr. Martin stated that the investment in disaster prevention is only a fraction of the amount spent on post disasters. The United States has expertise in evaluating possible risks, but energy resilience needs to improve. He backed up his statement with an example of the negative impact that superstorm Sandy had on certain buildings and areas in New York. Mr. Martin concluded his speech by mentioning a project in Brooklyn for which FEMA ensures longstanding energy resilience by funding a micro grid that supplies all of the buildings in a community.
The final speaker, Mr. Daniel Spitzer from Hodgson Russ LLP, discussed how to steer a clean energy project from kick-off to completion. Mr. Spitzer emphasized that financing and regulations are important factors for successful smart grid innovation projects. Mr. Spitzer then talked about structural changes in utility companies. The current trend towards a more decarbonized environment and localized energy generation requires regulations to make the smart grid financeable in the future. New York and California are progressively building more localized micro grids with utilities as service platforms to provide data. However, Mr. Spitzer addressed the need for regulations, such as a carbon tax or an investment tax credit grant, during this progress.
The evening concluded with an engaging Q&A session followed by a networking reception.