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Endless forms of Smart Grid pilots

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I recently met six regional electricity distribution companies in different parts of Brazil. These companies are, though, usually equivalent to some European national grids, serving millions of end users. Scale, and the Brazilian determination to manage it, is impressive I have to say.

All of these utilities are engaged in one or more Smart Grid pilots, ranging from a few buildings up to 60.000 households. The aims are rather unified – grid reliability and energy efficiency must be improved, in order to avoid blackouts and new coal- or oil-fired power stations. In climate change sense, Brazil is now faring very well with 70% of electric power generated with hydro. However, demand is growing fast when more and more rural areas are electrified and people’s living standards improve. Hydro is clean, but finite as not all rivers can be dammed, in order to protect the fragile and unique ecosystems such as the Amazon basin.

In a Brazil-sized country, a pilot should concern at least a million households – or Smart Meters, to effectively show the benefits of more conscious and accurate energy management and new technologies like adaptive demand response and time-of-use pricing. Give people access to the data, and they’ll find novel ways of utilizing it.

However, instead of just increasing pilot sizes, we should move into evolutionary and social thinking what comes to future energy usage contracts. A pilot should be offered to millions of volunteers country-wide, involving all regional companies and supported by the national grid operator and government. This would create a pool of knowledge which would then gradually be applied to standard contracts. This kind of voluntary involvement would avoid many of the backlashes we’ve seen with utilities who just impose new features to their customers.

This would effectively mean that services would continously evolve, even to a point that each energy contract could be different, based on the consumer’s preferences, history and habits.

//Pasi

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