225 kV interconnection between Mali and Ivory Coast : done !

A bit of history

Segou switchgearOn November 11, 2012, the high voltage power systems of Mali and Ivory Coast were connected for the first time. The new 225 kV overhead lines connection between Ferkéssédougou in the North of Ivory Coast and Ségou in Mali, via Sikasso and Koutiala, was put in operation. Not only the two countries are now interconnected in a single power system, but also Senegal, Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Togo, Benin, Nigeria and Niger.

Ferke-SegouThe 520 km of new lines, that costed EUR 125 mio, were indeed the missing link between the 225 kV OMVS system and the 330 kV coastal backbone network from Nigeria to Ghana. The two networks, joined together in one, now constitute one of biggest power system in Africa, stretching over 3,000 km from Mauritania to Nigeria, as promoted by the WAPP (West African Power Pool) since decades.

The OMVS (Organisation pour la mise en valeur du fleuve Sénégal, in French) is the Senegal River Basin Development Authority. It was established in 1972 by the governments of Guinea, Mali, Mauritania, and Senegal.

Personal emotion

I am personally happy that the line is finally in operation. I remember my first power system planning study, back in 1997. It was precisely the feasibility study for the interconnection between Mali and Ivory Coast, performed by Lahmeyer Int. The interconnection was already defined in a regional master plan performed in the eighties.

SLD Mali Ivory CoastFor ten years, there had been no significant progress. Finally, in 2007, I had again to revisit the study. India came to help the two countries to finance the project and the feasibility study had to be updated, again by Lahmeyer Int. The lines were then built accordingly to the detailed design prepared in the study. Now, they are online. It is always a great feeling for a planner to see that what he recommended years ago is finally built.

The construction wasn’t easy, taking into account the political uncertainties and security issues in both countries. I would like to pay respect to the engineers and workers who built the line in extremely tough conditions.

A smart move

Building overhead lines is not especially what one understand in the term “Smart Grid”. But taking into account the lack of high voltage network in Africa, the investment is really smart. Let’s continue to interconnect countries in West Africa. The next interconnection could be Ghana-Burkina Faso-Mali (Bolgatanga-Bobo Dioulasso-Sikasso – 600 km) or Guinea-Mali (N’Nzérékoré-Fomi-Fomi-Bamako – 920 km).

Gauthier Dupont
Dupont Energy Consulting GmbH

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GE and NGK spare no expense on molten salt batteries

Hustle and bustle in Schenectady, NY, USA

“GE Energy Storage is now open for business”, one can read in a recent General Electric video. The production commenced in September 2011. The Durathon™ battery factory officially opened on July 10, 2012, in Schenectady, NY. $100m were initially invested. Additional $70m are already committed to double the plant capacity.

It took three years at GE’s Global Research Center in Niskayuna, NY, to improve and perfect the technology bought in 2007 from Beta Research & Development, a UK company. And one years to build the plant.

Hundreds of new jobs were created. There are today 45 job offers on GE’s website. At full capacity, the factory will employ 450 workers and drive thousands of additional supply chain jobs throughout the region.

The first order was signed by Megatron Federal, a South African company, which will install 6,000 batteries in Nigeria to keep its telecom installations running during all too common power disruptions, decreasing its dependence on diesel backup generators, lowering fuel consumption and CO2 emissions.

Orders raise to $63m from about ten or so telecom customers.

Slow and steady in Nagoya, Japan

In his Fiscal Year 2012 2nd Quarter Results presentation, NGK Insulators Ltd. explains his strategy to reignite NAS batteries market:

  • Future trend:
    • Increasing overseas demand
  • Objectives:
    • To restore market confidence by implementing safety measures
    • To Expand sales of NAS batteries overseas and in renewable energy field
  • First steps:
    • Production priority put on safety measures
    • Resume production from November 2012
    • Overseas orders deferred to next year.

After the extraordinary FY11 (fiscal year from April 2010 to March 2011) losses of ¥4.8bn (€46m) related to NAS battery safety measures, sales of NAS batteries recovered at a slow pace in FY12 at ¥0.9bn (€9m) – see the figure opposite from NGK Insulators Ltd. But far beyond FY10 sales (¥19.7bn – €190m).

The deferment of order due to the priority put on safety measures is reflected in FY13 sales forecast that is as low as ¥0.2bn (€2m).

In NGK’s Summary of Consolidated Financial Results for the Six Months ended September 30, 2012, published on 31.10.2012, ¥38bn (€367m) are provisioned for NAS battery safety measures, down from ¥57bn (€552m) initially end of December 2011.

In nine months, 34% of the initial provision for NAS safety were invested. Taking into account NGK strategy explained above, one can expect that the remaining efforts would speed up, and that one year from now would be sufficient to completely solve safety issues. This assumption is in line with NGK announcement to defer overseas orders to next year.

The Hare and the Tortoise – Our Prediction

While GE is new in the race and try to force the pace, NGK, as usual, adopts an extremely cautious approach. Based on the moral of the tale, “slow and steady wins the race”, one could conclude that NGK is in best position.

But it would be too hastily, because GE and NGK are not (yet) playing in the same league:

  • NGK’ NAS batteries minimum size is one MW. The module are rated 50 kW, but they are not sold individually.
  • GE’s Durathon battery module delivers a few kW. Multiple Durathon modules can be connected in parallel if more capacity is needed. But they cannot be connected in series for higher voltage. MW range capacity then requires further developments.

They will then both win the race. Each on his own playground. NGK in large-scale grid applications, including integration with wind farms and large PV plants; and GE in medium-scale energy applications, like what they are doing in the telecom sector. But one day, both companies will meet in the same league. Then…

Gauthier Dupont
Dupont Energy Consulting GmbH

The first NAS batteries project after the fire incident of Sept. 2011

NGK resumes NAS batteries projects

In a previous post in last August, we have predicted that NGK Insulators‘ NAS batteries production shall resume in October 2012. The prediction is relatively correct: NGK has just announced the launch of its first implementation project since the fire incident that occurred on September 21, 2011.

Smart Grid Demonstration Project

1 MW of NAS batteries will be part of a Smart Grid demonstration project in Los Alamos, New Mexico. The information was simultaneously released on September 18th, 2012, by NGK Insulators and New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO).

We have updated the list of NAS Battery Storage Systems accordingly.

The project aims to:

  • Expand the introduction of new energy
  • Promote energy conservation efforts and leading-edge technologies based on Japanese know-how, including large-scale stationary batteries for power grids and energy management systems
  • Contribute to international standardization activities for smart grid systems, which are steadily progressing on a global scale
  • Further promote the dissemination of Japanese smart grid technologies throughout the world.

The silver lining in the fire incident

Like for any incident, there are positive aspects afterwards.

Now, NAS batteries systems are safer. Not only thanks to a reinforced design, but especially because of the increased awareness of the real danger of such technology. They were neither an explosion, as many opponents predicted, nor toxic gas emissions, nor toxic liquid release. On an environmental point of view the fire incident proved that NAS batteries have a low impact.

“Only” a big fire, destroying the complete plant, but without any casualty. So the worst case is to lose the assets. This risk can be covered by a good insurance. As explained in a previous post, in order to prevent the spread of fire, NGK improved the design, the safety measures and the facilities organisation. When the next fire will take place, it is likely that the fire would be contained to the failed module or to a few, but the rest of the plant would be saved.

Prediction

Please do not misunderstand us. When we write “when the next fire will take place”, we are not pessimistic, but realistic. Fire incidents will occur, for sure. The risk zero does not exist. NGK did understand that, and reacted accordingly by concentrating their efforts on fire spread prevention. A clever move.

Now that NGK’s NAS batteries are back in business, it is time to turn the page and look at the future. It is the last time we mention the fire incident,… until the next one (we hope as late as possible).

Gauthier Dupont
Dupont Energy Consulting GmbH

The Smart Grid is dead. Long live the ICET !

The term Smart Grid is too controversial, then forget it

Since years we didn’t succeed to properly define what the Smart Grid is. There is not agreement about its definition. I’ve started to collect some reference to illustrate here my point of view, but they are so numerous that it would be unfair to select just a few. Crawl on internet, read books, articles and blogs on the subject and you will observe it from your own eyes.

When a term is too difficult to define, it means that it does not correspond to something real. It is a vague concept, a dream, or a vision as I’ve personally defined in a previous post.

Why should we continue to use this fuzzy concept? Just drop it!

We should say ICET instead

One tendency is clear in the Smart Grid nebula: the concept always includes the use of Information & Communication Technologies (ICT) in the electricity sector (as defined in Wikipedia for instance). In fact it is more than that. The right word should be integration instead of use.

Let’s consider the communication system needed to allow Smart Meters to communicate with utilities’ control centres. Thank to Power Line Carriage (PLC) the same cable can be used to transmit electricity and information at the same time. If going wireless, utilities have to invest in GPRS/3G/4G (or similar technology) infrastructure, or to be a client (a big one) of a telecom Co.

If Smart Meters’ full capabilities are exploited, they have to continuously communicate with utilities’ control centre, exchanging huge amount of data. The need for communication is then so high that utilities and telecom Co’s will have a strong economic interest to develop intense synergies. On the long-term, synergies will lead to merger, then forming a company delivering both electricity and communication services (wireless and/or through electric cables). Integration of electricity into the ICT sector shall form the ICET sector, for Information, Communication & Electricity Technologies.

There is also another advantage of not using anymore the term Smart Grid: there will be no discussion anymore to know if a grid is dumb or smart. There are so many useless discussion about this. It is a shame to lose so much time in futile debates.

Prediction 

Electricity and information will flow in the same cable everywhere, like it is already the case with USB cables for instance. Internet connection will be ubiquitous not only thanks to wireless technologies like Wi-Fi, but also via electric cables. When you will plug your laptop in the wall socket, it will not only get electricity to recharge, but also an internet connection.

The owner of the socket will not charge you for internet, like he already doesn’t for charging your laptop. Today everybody has everywhere access to electricity (expect in poor region in developing countries). Tomorrow everybody will have everywhere access to internet (I hope even in poor region).

Call for support

I then propose that we all use the new acronym ICET instead of Smart Grid.

If you like the proposal, then do it. Don’t say anymore Smart Grid. And tell you colleagues and friends to do so.

If you disagree. Please explain us why. Feel free to comment.

Thank you all in advance for your active contribution to the debate.

Gauthier Dupont
Dupont Energy Consulting GmbH

NGK’s NAS batteries long recovery

Facts

  • September 21, 2011 : Fire incident at the Tsukuba Plant, Joso City, Ibaraki Prefecture, Japan
  • September 22, 2011 : announcement of the event on NGK’s website
  • October 5, 2011 : fire authorities confirmed that the fire had been extinguished
  • October 25, 2011 : NGK requests all NAS batteries facilities to be stopped or to restrict their usage (after agreement with NGK)
  • October 28, 2011 : All shipments are officially postponed & business forecast is revised
  • November 24, 2011 : NGK publishes a Q&A on its website
  • June 7, 2012 : NGK explains the causes of the fire incident and countermeasures
  • From June 2012 : upgrade of existing batteries facilities
  • October 2012 (?) : batteries production resumed

Small cause, big effects

After months of silence, NGK finally communicates on June 7th, 2012, about the NAS battery fire incident. The cause: a single faulty cell. One of 15,360 cells composing a 2 MW block. The solution: safety enhancement. No need for design change. Big incident, easy solution.

Countermeasures

Since June 2012, existing NAS batteries facilities are, one after the other, upgraded to safety enhancement, by implementing following measures to prevent the spread of fire in modular batteries :

  • Fuses between battery cells
  • Insulation boards between blocks in battery modules
  • Anti-fire boards above and below battery modules.

The two first measures requires about 6000 battery modules from 174 locations in Japan, France, Germany, UAE, UK and USA to be collected in NGK facilities in Japan and then shipped back.

Along with additional safety measures (improved fire monitoring system, installation of fire extinguishers and fire-prevention equipment), as well as facilities organisation improvement (setup of a fire-fighting structure on site and of a fire evacuation route, with guidance system).

Production of new batteries 

New batteries would be produced at the earliest in October 2012. Business development perspectives are nevertheless maintained, mainly because NGK niche market is waiting for their batteries. unless GE’s Durathon shows up…

Gauthier Dupont
Dupont Energy Consulting GmbH

Smart consumer vs. smart meter

Bad news confirmed
Three months after the installation of Mainova’s smart meter at home, the rise of my electricity bill is definitively confirmed. Extrapolated on one year, the smart meter increases my bill by 31.5 €/year.

As explained in a previous post, the main advantage is to be able to monitor the consumption of my family.  If I want my money back, the only option is to modify our consumption behavior. We have to shift a part of our consumption from costly slots to cheaper ones. Before I start bothering my family with changes regarding our consumption behaviour, it seems astute to carry out an analysis. Thanks to the monitoring, I can retrieve enough data to make likely calculations.

The following graphic illustrates how peak consumptions may be shifted in order to reach for maximum savings.

The black horizontal line represents my household’s minimum base consumption, or base load, (fridge, heater, appliances on standby, etc.), that can be neither reduced nor shifted.

Considering all the peaks above the base load since my smart meter is installed, the savings would reach about 14.4 €/year, which doesn’t compensate for the additional monthly charges for the use of the smart meter (50.32 €/year). The tariff difference between off-peak and peak periods is too small (8.5% discount).

As a conclusion, it is not necessary to bother my family for a few euros a month. Unfortunately I was right about the fact that installing a Mainova smart meter is not profitable. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t accept a smart meter in your home. It depends on the tariffs proposed by your utility and on your consumption behaviour.

Think smart before installing a smart meter

The political circumstances are such that sooner or later, you will have to make that change (see the EU recommendations on smart metering systems and the EU directive for electricity, Annex I-2). I hope at least that through this article, you will take good care at checking the tariff conditions.

Concerning consumption behaviour, it is obvious that my family is not a standard household. As a professional in energy efficiency, I am aware of available technologies and good habits to limit our consumption as much as possible. I don’t need a smart meter to monitor our consumption to know what to do to be a model family in energy efficiency. My kids turn off the light when leaving a room. Simple, but efficient. I’ve installed LED. Also efficient, but expensive.

If it is not your case, a smart meter could help you to identify savings you could implement. You could show to your children the consequence of not acting like energy efficiency recommends. You could analyse your consumption measurement and make a small analysis to estimate potential savings, to select the best tariffs scheme that is proposed by the utilities in your region, etc. Be smarter than your utility.

Flavien Port / Gauthier Dupont
Dupont Energy Consulting GmbH

Smart meter : a smart but expensive gadget

My new smart meter

In a previous post, I wrote I doubted that smart meter is a good investment for a private consumer. Now, I will prove it!

Many remain sceptical in front of theoretical arguments, even when based on figures, experience, knowledge and deep analysis. They need to see it, to believe it. I will then show them. To do so, I’ve recently acquired a smart meter. If my analysis is correct, my electricity bill shall increase. But I am ready to sacrifice a few euros a month on the altar of truth.

I’ve first checked which utilities are proposing smart meters in my area. Two only. The first one is Yello Strom, which charges 23.98 ct/kWh and 71.28 €/year (Inc.VAT). More than my current tariff by Mainova, the historical utilities: 23.48 ct/kWh and 57.98 €/year. The second one is Mainova, which proposes the following time-of-use (ToU) tariff:

  • Additional monthly charges: 50,32 €/year
  • From 8am to 3pm and from 6pm to 9pm: 23.48 ct/kWh (thereafter called “Peak”)
  • From 3pm to 6pm.: 22.48 ct/kWh (thereafter called “Mid”)
  • From 9pm. to 8am.: 21.48 ct/kWh (thereafter called “Low”)

So on the one hand, the monthly charges increase by 87%. On the other hand, there is a 4% and 9% discount on kWh tariffs in the Mid and the Low slots respectively.

The device provided by Mainova is from Landis&Gyr, reference E350 ZMF120. The linked communication module is an E35C which is based on the mobile data service GPRS/GSM.

My new bill

As my genuine consumption can be retrieved, there is supporting evidence that I would like to share with you. Let’s do it.

Here is an excerpt of my bill from May 15th to May 31st 2012, the first 17 days since the smart meter was implemented.

I would have paid 41.72€ with my former rate, which means I have lost 1.31€, in only 17 days. Considering the full period until today, I have calculated that I have already lost 4.21€, i.e. about 25-30€/year. The kWh tariff discount is too low to compensate the additional flat rate for renting the smart meter.

Benefits ! Where are you ?

Let’s take a look at Mainova advertisement, speaking highly of benefits and advantages of smart meter:

  • “Total control of your electricity bills, due to the clear analysis possibilities you have access to on your Mainova online account.”

In fact I don’t control my bill at all, the only thing I can do is watching online (with a delay of two hours) how much I consumed.

  • “Possibility to save money by shifting your peak consumptions to the cheapest slots.”

Sure it is possible to save money, but not especially thanks to the smart meter. I don’t need a tool to determine when to shift some of my Peak or Mid consumption to cheaper time slots, provided that I am capable to identify which appliance(s) caused the consumption in the Peak or Mid time slots.

  • Take advantage of many extra functions and optimize your electricity consumption depending on your needs.”

The smart meter itself is just a meter with a digital screen. The functions are in fact the ones proposed by the internet user interface. They are (for the moment) not that sophisticated. I hope Mainova will develop its tool. I had the opportunity to see the one of Yello Strom. This one is good. Once again, the smart meter doesn’t optimize your consumption, it just makes it more visible, so that you can optimize it, if you have time.

At the end of the day

We can see that the direct benefits for the end consumers are limited. Main advantage is to be able to monitor his consumption. Thanks to smart meter, customers have the opportunity to pay more for the same service.

The smart meter is an initial cost wich doesn’t seem obvious to recapture, except if one is ready for drastic change in his consumption behavior. Now that I have one at home, I will carry through experiments to find a way how smart meter can be profitable, if possible. I will keep you informed in upcoming posts.

Flavien Port / Gauthier Dupont
Dupont Energy Consulting GmbH