Filling the power engineering skills gap

During the next decade, about half of power engineers in the United States are expected to retire

ieeeSeveral fund programs help educate the next generation of engineers. For instance:

  • The multimillion-dollar IEEE Power & Energy Society’s Scholarship Plus Initiative encourages undergrads to pursue careers in power engineering by awarding them scholarships and providing career experiences as undergraduates.

More on IEEE publication.

Smart advices for smart meter users

Some stats

As explained in a previous post, I have acquired a Smart Meter and promised to keep you informed. Now that 2013 begins, it’s time to take a closer look at the stats of my electricity consumption available through my smart meter.

I spare you the explanation how to import data in Excel and how to perform the calculations. The website interface proposed by my utility Mainova is not really user friendly and a lot of manual handling is necessary to import data for each day individually.

Average daily consumption

The previous figure shows my average daily consumption curve. Quite a typical one for households without electric heating (my family enjoys district heating). It also shows that Mainova’s tariff policy makes sense: lower tariff during low load and higher during peak load. The tariff structure to incite clients to pay attention to their load curve is well defined.

Still bad news

Now, as explained in a previous post, Mainova’s rates for the use of a smart meter are not appropriate for consumers (economically speaking). The Time of Use (ToU) tariff does not compensate the rental fee for the smart meter. For the 8 months since the smart meter is installed, I have effectively paid 3% more than the standard tariff without smart meter.

Modifying behaviour to shift consumption from peak to low hours could reduce the losses to 1%, but no wins. So I stay on my position not to bother my family with drastic changes (for instance, to eat before 6 PM or after 9 PM to avoid peak hours), unless Mainova modifies its tariff policy.

What utilities might change

Bulb

I believe in smart meters. They are useful. But I think consumers should have the right to get access to this technology at a more decent price. Let’s recommend a new tariff structure that can foster the installation of smart meters amongst Mainova’s clients:

Current prices (€) Proposed prices (€)
Peak (orange slot) 0.2348 Middle + 20% = 0.2697
Middle (blue slot) 0.2248 Unchanged = 0.2248
Low (green slot) 0.2148 Middle – 30% = 0.1574

In this case, the yearly bill is the same with or without smart meters (in my case). But with drastic behaviour change, my family could spare 13%, which is quite interesting. With limited and less annoying change, few percents of savings can be easily achieved. This is clearly a win-win situation:

  • If consumption habits remain the same, the client pays the same price (with or without smart meter).
  • If the client pays attention to his load curve and shifts some loads from peak to low hours, he pays less and utility’s peak load is accordingly reduced.
  • If the client consumes less (for instance by investing in energy efficiency devices), he pays less and utility’s production is accordingly reduced (like for any tariff structure).

What to do now?

@Mainova’s customers: do not accept a smart meter unless you are ready to pay more or to drastically change your habits.

@Mainova: please, improve your tariff structure to share the wins of smart meters deployment. As explained previously, utilities benefits are known: smart meters help you to cope with deregulation and market-driven pricing, to adapt to higher renewable energy penetration rate, real-time load data, etc.

@All of us: be critical when talking about smart grid, look at the pictures and make decision based on information, not on advertisement.

Our prediction

Customers will be more and more reluctant to accept a smart meter in their home, unless utilities communicate on their smart meters strategy and objectives, share the benefits with their clients, guarantee privacy and take into account stakeholders interests.

Flavien Port / Gauthier Dupont

Dupont Energy Consulting GmbH

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

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