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Year in review: Top 10 Utility of the Future blog posts from 2014

2014 was an exciting year for our organization, as we completed our first successful year as DNV GL, which combines the strengths of DNV, KEMA, Garrad Hassan, and GL Renewables Certification. As 2014 is now officially over, we’d like to take a look back at our most popular Utility of the Future blog posts. Hot topics included energy efficiency, wind, solar, renewable integration, smart metering, and energy storage.

We want to thank you for your readership in 2014, and look forward to sharing more thought leadership with you in 2015! Please use the comments section below to share an opinion or suggest new topics for the upcoming year.

Below are the top 10 posts from our Utility of the Future blog:

1. Nest Learning Thermostats: A good fit for commercial buildings?
A staple of residential and commercial energy efficiency programs, programmable thermostats provide a basic level of control over energy use, comparable in functionality to lighting timers and occupancy sensors. According to the US Department of Energy, programmable thermostats can save 5% to 15% on annual heating and cooling bills. But they have to be programmed to work. Small detail, big impact.

The recently-introduced Nest Learning Thermostat adds a new layer of simplicity and control to the standard programmable thermostat. And with its modern design, it looks pretty slick on a wall. But does it increase energy savings? And, can it work in a commercial environment? … READ MORE.

2. Implementing renewable energy – secrets of success
Today 144 countries worldwide introduced renewable energy targets [REN21, 2014] and policy frameworks in a bid to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It is expected that by 2030 the global renewable capacity is estimated to reach over 3,000 GW in 2030 [IRENA, 2014] growing at an average rate of 6% per year. Although renewables are universally recognized as a clean source of energy, many renewable projects are experiencing significant delays and/or cancellations due to environmental or aesthetic concerns.  For instance, many wind projects have been delayed for years due to aesthetic concerns, whilst the presence of sensitive habitats and rare plants have prevented the implementation of ground mounted solar projects, as well as the adoption of geothermal, hydropower and tidal/wave technologies…READ MORE.

3. The future of solar energy: concentrated solar power vs. photovoltaic power plants
The “solar power tower” is a catchy name for (one of the options) of harvesting solar energy today. This technology uses  computer-controlled mirrors spread over thousands of hectares to reflect sun beams towards the solar power station where water is heated to high temperatures  to create steam and produce electricity with a generator. While most people embrace the idea of using the sun to produce electricity, this particular method is starting to receive some scrutiny.  A recent article in The Wall Street Journal questions the “avian fatalities,” which occur when birds fly through the exceptionally hot rays aimed at the tower and catch fire in midair. Environmental activists are starting to act to save the birds and the bureaucratic machine of permits and regulations has started up…READ MORE.

4. Renewable integration: Is it time for a second paradigm shift?
An effective functioning power grid must maintain a balance between generation and load. So the question is: how do you achieve this balance with an increasing share of variable renewables—like wind and solar—and large amounts of embedded generation in the distribution system?

One of the answers lies in paradigm shifts. It is now about the “load adapting to the available variable generation” through a.o. automated demand response schemes, which is different from the 20th century paradigm where controllable generation is adjusted to the variable load. But is it time for yet another paradigm shift? …READ MORE.

5. The real cost of solar energy adoption: A perspective for the Middle East
In a recent Utilities Middle East article, Zeyad Al-Shiha, Chief Executive Officer of The Saudi Electricity Company (SEC), commented that “solar energy is currently too costly to replace traditional methods of energy production.” Later in the article, he also states that “producing electricity with fuel costs seven halala per megawatt, compared to 50 halala when using solar energy.”

While DNV GL has not attempted to independently verify the precise calculation behind this claim, it is important to understand the real cost of solar energy adoption…READ MORE.

6. Integration of renewable energy in Europe
With the delivery of a final report, the Markets and Policy Development team of DNV GL’s Energy division in Bonn, Germany has closed a comprehensive project for the European Commission DG ENER.

Project Overview
In this project our team has been commissioned to analyse the cost of integrating large quantities of renewable energy sources (RES)—up to 70% of total generation—into the grid by comparing various scenarios. Analytical work to date has analysed the feasibility of and potential challenges around power sector decarbonisation and increasing penetration of the supply of electricity from RES. Most of this work has been focused on the development to 2020 and the implications of RES at transmission level…READ MORE.

7. Offshore wind industry (finally) takes the plunge in Japan
Visit the hot springs of Jozankei-onsen and you’ll see many a tourist cautiously dip their toes in its steaming water.

There’s been a fair amount of offshore wind industry toe-dipping in the waters off the coast of Japan too. 45 MW of offshore wind has been installed, as of end-2013. Whilst not insubstantial, much of this is very close to shore, and it represents less than 2% of what has been achieved in the UK (3,653 MW), the world’s leading market.

Meanwhile, solar PV deployment in Japan is well over 14 GW and counting…READ MORE.

8. DNV GL develops time of use electricity and water tariffs model for the Middle East
DNV GL recently developed electricity and water software to reflect the marginal cost of different customer segments for electricity and water supply. The main objective of the study was to develop a set of software tools for the calculation of electricity and water tariffs on a seasonal and time-of-use basis. The main principle of the tariff calculation tools is based on marginal cost pricing and tariffs were derived on the basis of long-run marginal cost (LRMC) pricing for both electricity and water.

The key reason for this study was to assist the utility with one aspect of its demand side management (DSM) program. The objective of applying time of use (TOU) tariffs is to provide sharp economic signals to end users to shift their loads from peak periods to off-peak periods where possible. This process allows the load curve to flatten and can offset/slow down the investment required in additional capacity to meet peak electricity and water demand. Demand side management in order to allocate investment capital more efficiently and to reduce the cost of supply is a big focus in the Middle Eastern countries…READ MORE.

9. A quiet revolution: smart metering’s hidden benefits
Back in the mid-1980s, telecommunications giant BT—or British Telecom, as it was then—launched a massive infrastructure project. Out would go the UK’s old analogue telephone exchanges, and in would come whizzy new digital ones.

The expense was enormous—hundreds of millions of pounds. In 1985, the first System X digital exchanges, sourced from GEC-Plessey, were switched on in Birmingham, Coventry, Leeds, and the City of London. A year later, the first System Y digital exchanges, sourced from Thorn Ericsson, began operating.

And it was a rollout with valuable lessons for those of us in the electricity industry, as we look forward to the rollout of smart metering. Because then—as now—there were strident voices, some of them influential, doubting the wisdom of such expense, and asking if the benefits were really worthwhile…READ MORE.

10. Is Conservation Voltage Reduction truly energy efficiency?
Energy policy, codes and standards, and equipment technology upgrades—either self-directed or through a program—drive energy efficiency. The mechanics of each of these drivers that ultimately change how energy is used for different purposes in homes, businesses, and industrial facilities can be incredibly complex, as consumers are not always eager to adopt new energy efficient technologies and behaviors.  But what if there was a way to reduce electricity consumption without any change in the electricity consuming equipment stock or behavior on the part of consumers?

Conservation Voltage Reduction (CVR) is a proven technology for reducing energy and peak demand. It is a measure implemented upstream of end service points in the distribution system so the efficiency benefits are realized by consumers and the distributor. This is done without any intervention on the part of consumers. CVR is implemented by controlling the voltage on a distribution circuit to the lower end of a tolerance band, either defined by ANSI C84.1 (114–126 volts) or another target range. Conservation then occurs on the circuit when certain end-use loads draw less power when voltage is lowered…READ MORE.

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