How Smart Can You and Your Local Electricity Grid Get?

Xcel's Boulder Partners

PHOTO: William Sweet

Getting Smart

Simple adapters, such as these made by Lixar, can convert any major appliance into a programmable smart appliance. Working from the portal, home owners can turn their air conditioners down or their dishwashers off when it’s hot and electricity is expensive, or they can turn their sprinkler systems or clothes dryers on when it’s dark and cool. Of course, the same adapters can be used to regulate alarm or nighttime lighting systems.



Accenture describes itself as a global management consulting, technology services, and outsourcing company, with upward of 181 000 employees and US $23 billion in revenues. Operations and industry groups include communications and high technology. Helped with initial general planning of SmartGridCity and implemented two specific features, involving a more effective field dispatch system and an improved dispatch control “dashboard.”


Current Group

A relatively small, privately held company headquartered in Germantown, Md., Current Group has been identified by Dow Jones as one of the 10 leading clean-tech companies operating in Europe and by the Davos World Economic Forum as a 2009 Tech Pioneer. Its OpenGrid software systems, used in the Boulder project, enable low-latency IP communication among standard grid elements such as intelligent sensors, capacitor banks, tap changers, reclosers, switches, substation devices, and meters. The company is also involved in a number of European smart-grid and distributed energy initiatives with utilities such as Electricité de France, Endesa, Enel, Iberdrola, RWE, and Vattenfall.



The company’s SmartGrid platform offers electricity distributors (what we used to call utilities) an “intelligent network of distributed energy resources that controls load, stores energy, and produces power,” as corporate literature puts it. The platform aggregates distributed energy resources and provides utility control through a single Web-based interface, “thereby providing the equivalent performance of central station generation.”



Landis+Gyr is a venerable and major manufacturer of smart meters, with more than 5000 employees and operations in 30 countries. The company formed a joint metering business with Siemens in 1998 and, after the withdrawal of Siemens from metering in 2002, went through several reorganizations and changes of ownership to emerge on a rapid-growth trajectory. It is based in Zug, Switzerland.



OSIsoft says it “delivers the PI System, the industry standard in enterprise infrastructure, for management of time series data and events.” Its users rely on it “to safeguard data and deliver enterprise-wide visibility into operational and business data in order to manage assets, mitigate risks, improve processes, drive innovation, [and] make business decisions in real time, as well as identify competitive business and market opportunities.”


Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories

Based in Pullman, Wash., SEL is almost indisputably the world’s leading manufacturer of microprocessor-based substation control equipment. The company produced the world’s first digital relay, in 1984. Now it operates in 126 countries and has 42 regional technical service centers in the United States and 30 technical service centers in 15 additional countries worldwide. SEL boasts that its programmable automation controllers, substation communication devices, and computers are built to IEEE and IEC standards.



SmartSynch’s SmartMeter System lets more than 100 utilities “communicate with any device on the grid.” The company is based in Jackson, Miss.



Ventyx provides Xcel with management systems to guarantee that the right crews show up with the right tools to fix problems in transmission and distribution systems. This leads to proven reductions in repair times, electrical downtime, and system outages, as well as savings in paperwork.