Conference Seeks to Get Smart about Grid

By Anna Lynn Spitzer

Irvine, Calif., April 10, 2009 -- "A “smart grid” that could efficiently and reliably provide electricity to power-hungry Southern California moved one step closer to reality this week.

Gian Mario Maggio
Samuelsen discusses smart grid with KOCE's Nazar.

One hundred fifty researchers, faculty and students from industry, government and academia convened at Calit2 at UCI for the Smart Grid Research Symposium, sponsored by a consortium that included Southern California Edison, UCI, USC, Caltech and UCLA.

Participants brainstormed about how to create the next-generation grid that uses the power of information technology to track consumer use of electricity, raise and lower rates during peak and non-peak times and incorporate distributed power generation into its system.

Speakers from Edison, the California Energy Commission, IBM Thomas J Watson Research Center, Google and Cisco, to name a few, discussed what research will be required and which problems will have to be solved in order to create a cleaner, smarter energy future for the Southland. Specific areas identified include networking, distributed
systems, security, embedded systems and software architecture.

Other presenters included the Electric Power Research Institute, the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Electricité de France, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and the UC Office of the President. 

Afternoon breakout sessions addressed IT architecture for the smart grid, workforce and asset optimization, the smart grid and society, and security, resilience and robustness.
Scott Samuelsen, director of UCI’s Advanced Power and Energy Program, facilitated the Smart Grid and Society session. Participants discussed the use of economic incentives to encourage use of renewable energy and reduce demand during peak load periods. They also traded ideas about pluggable hybrid electric vehicles, user interfaces, dynamic pricing and incorporation of solar and wind power into the grid.

Samuelsen was interviewed during the conference lunch break by David Nazar of KOCE-TV for a segment to air on “Inside O.C.”  He described the smart grid of the future, comparing today’s systems to features on a 1950s-era automobile, which had little in the way of built-in technology. Cars today, he said, are equipped with a range of sensing devices that make them smarter and more responsive. “That’s the direction our electric grid needs to go – from a mid-20th century design to a 21st-century intelligent-systems approach.”