September 2012 - George Thomas, president of Contemporary Controls participated as a speaker at the Great Lakes Symposium on Smart Grid and the New Energy Economy held on September 24-26, 2012 at the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT). The conference was technically sponsored by Galvin Center for Electricity Innovation and the IEEE Power and Energy Society (PES) –formerly known as the Power Engineering Society. This was the second annual symposium hosted by IIT and it drew over 500 people from the mid-west mainly from the Great Lakes region. This was not strictly a technical conference. Over half of the sessions and keynotes involved public policy questions and concerns from users and producers of electricity. There were discussions about current state and federal legislation, cyber-security, distributed generation, microgrids, demand-response, renewable energy, and environmental concerns. Our interest was approaching the problem of connecting to the grid from the building automation or industrial automation side but we were confronted with the jargon and acronyms from the utility industry which is highly regulated. It was different but very interesting.
George Thomas participated on a panel discussion on Smart Homes and Distributed Generation with Joyce Coffee of the Edelman; Colin Meehan, Environmental Defense Fund; Dr. Paul Navratil, Texas Advanced Computing Center of the University of Texas at Austin; and Chip O'Donnell, Siemens. It was a diverse group with different takes on the Smart Grid. George's talk was on the Role of Communications Protocols in the Smart Grid. He was surprised that in a three-day symposium he never heard the words BACnet® or LON mentioned yet commercial and residential buildings combined consume 72% of the energy in the US. He spoke about the work being done by ASHRAE's SPC 201P Facility Smart Grid Information Model (FSGIM) committee chaired by Steven Bushby of NIST. With the help of co-sponsor NEMA, the group is attempting to create a common information model for loads and generators found in homes, buildings and industrial facilities so that they can be managed through the Smart Grid. Facility communication protocols such as BACnet and LON would then be adapted to the model when creating an Energy Supplier Interface. Communicating through this interface will invariably involve demand-response and he discussed that ongoing development and promotion of OpenADR 2.0 from the OpenADR Alliance managed by Barry Haaser. OpenADR is based upon work from OASIS – an organization devoted to open standards in the information technology world – and appears to be gaining a strong following. Many of the members in the alliance are well known in the building automation industry and most of us are interested in open protocols.
Noting all the start-up companies present at this symposium, the Smart Grid is viewed as a huge emerging market but there is still much that needs to be defined in terms of standards, technology and public policy. Buildings and factories are big users of energy and industries such as building automation and industrial automation need to be aware that the Smart Grid will impact these industries.