Smart Grid

Understanding the energy value chain

Utilities, grid operators, and consumers all benefit when everyone understands and manages how energy flows.

While we tend to consider electrical generation and distribution to be separated into discrete things, Mark Feasel suggests that we should think of the complete value chain from control center to customer. When energy flow is managed as a system from one end to the other, it is possible to get the highest efficiency, and that is the way that Schneider Electric looks at the big picture. With that kind of vision, all the participants in the chain have the best opportunity to reach their ultimate objectives.

Part of that process is making sure information can circulate from one end of that chain to the other, in both directions, and without any resistance. Sort of informational superconductors. Connecting to the last few links of that chain involves engaging customers in new ways and breaking through the barrier formed at the electric meter mounted on the outside of an individual residence.

Feasel sees Schneider Electric’s most critical role now as providing the means for creating that new engagement. Adding technologies like Wiser home management products is part and parcel of making that engagement a reality. The ability to help utilities differentiate themselves in the eyes of residential electric customers is how Schneider Electric differentiates itself in the eyes of utility customers.

That greater energy chain is getting more complex all the time. In fact, calling it a chain suggests it has two ends and follows one line. Such isn’t the case any more with the complexity of energy supply and demand. It’s really more of a net with multiple paths from any given point. Even an individual residential customer in many areas has the ability to purchase power from multiple suppliers. Utilities have to deal with multiple sources as wind, natural gas, and solar generation compete with traditional coal and nuclear base-loaded plants.

The North America Wiser product line helps create that last termination in a home that can send and receive information, providing a critical point of contact for the utility. Such a thing has not been possible until very recently, and exactly what this represents in the larger scheme of things is still being explored. However it goes, its clear that this kind of capability represents a huge opportunity for utilities to retain their customers while implementing infrastructure that supports better demand management and grid stability.

Schneider Electric is working to combine all these elements into one major package to help utility customers deal with all the new stresses on the industry while allowing users to manage energy consumption and reduce costs. When considering the complete chain, all the elements do work together in one comprehensive effort.


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