Logica and EdP’s smart grid trial in Évora

Energy management devices

Logica brought me to the pretty Portuguese town of Évora recently to check out the InovGrid project which they have been participating in, along with EdP and other partner companies.

InovGrid is an ambitious project to roll out smart grid technologies to six million customers across Portugal. Évora’s InovCity is the first stage of the project. There are 35,000 people living in Évora, almost all of whom have been issued with smart meters by now.

The smart meters are connected in realtime to in-home displays (like the one pictured above) which takes energy consumption readings every two seconds and plots it on the screen. It can display the usage data as kWh, CO2 or more tangibly, the € cost. If the home or business has an internet connection, this information can be viewed remotely on a computer or mobile device (as seen on the laptop on the right in the image above). Interestingly, there is two-way communication going on here, so if smart plugs are installed in the house, they can be controlled (on/off) from the in-home display, or remotely.

The information displayed on the in-home displays, and remotely, is not the same information which is sent to the utility for billing purposes. This may lead to some discrepancies in the € amount on the displays versus the amount on the bill at the end of the month. The smart meters send billing information to the utilities over Power Line Communications (with a GPRS backup). Even with the PLC connection, there is far too much data in 2 second reads, so a lower rate of reads is sent to the utility for billing purposes.

Interestingly, the in-home device shown above was installed in a coffee shop in Évora and it was possible to watch the fluctuations in the consumption graph in realtime as coffee was being made for customers. Also, the coffee shop realised €500 savings per annum in their energy bill when they examined the information from the device and realised they were not on the optimal tariff. It also demonstrated to them the savings to be had from turning off the coffee machine overnight, so the extra information from the device helped influence their behaviour.

EV Parking spot

EV Parking spot

Other than the smart meters, we were shown the information display in the town hall, which shows the realtime energy consumption of the building. This information is also supposed to be available on the town hall’s website for citizens to see remotely, though I failed to find it there (doubtless due to my lack of Portuguese!).

Other nice features on display were dedicated parking places for electric vehicles (EV’s), complete with charging stations as well as LED streetlights with motion sensors which dim the lights in the absence of people on the streets. The EV parking place was predictably empty due more to the general unavailability of EV’s than anything else. The LED streetlights though was interesting. Very few towns or cities have, as yet, embraced LED streetlights and yet 50% of a town’s energy spend can be on streetlights. LED lights can save 80-90% of the energy cost over traditional streetlights, they can report back their status (obviating the need to have staff checking for lighting failures) and they have a much longer lifetime, so they save on maintenance costs as well as energy.

It would be interesting to hear back from the InovCity people how much Évora is saving on lighting costs from the move to LED (even if only the energy savings) but even more interesting would be to try to see if the rollout of the smart meters and in-home displays has led to any sustained, per home, energy consumption reduction.

One last comment on this project – I can’t help but feel that the provision of in-home displays is an idea whose time has past. These days most people have access to a tablet, a smartphone or a computer where they can access this information. I suspect as the InovGrid project rolls out beyond the 35,000 inhabitants of Évora to rest of Portugal, the IHD’s will become at best, an added extra option, or quietly killed off.

Photo credits Tom Raftery


Reflections on Logica’s analyst day

Logica Portugal

I attended a Logica Analyst briefing earlier this week in Logica’s recently opened International Utilities Competence Center (pictured above).

The days was chock full of talks from both Logica staff and also from João Torres, President & CEO EDP Distribuição – the Portuguese DSO, and a Logica customer.

Most of the talks were very interesting but two that stood out for me were the ones given by João Torres where he discussed EDP’s smart grid project, called InovGrid and the demo of RMS (Renewables Management System) by Jose Antunes and Rita Burnay. RMS is Logica’s software for managing remote windfarms.

In discussing InovGrid João explained that despite the costs of rolling out a smart grid, EDP felt that the benefits outweighed the costs. The main benefits João saw from smart grids were:

  • increase intelligence, supervision and control of the network
  • improve the efficiency and quality of the electricity supply
  • facilitate the maximising the amount of micro and distributed generation on the grid
  • enable smart metering and smart energy management

InovGrid is one of the most advanced smart grid projects in Europe. EDP now has 3,000 micro-generators on its grid and expects to have 200,000 smart meters installed by the end of 2010.

João was extremely open during his presentation. When asked which communication protocol was best for a smart grid, he said he felt PLC was best but he admitted that it had issues. EDP, he said, have a team assessing protocols and that a lot of the details are still to be decided.

Jose Antunes and Rita Burnay gave a demonstration of Logica’s windfarm management software RMS. The software is designed to manage large numbers of remote wind turbines and allows for quick and easy drill down on information. In the demo, we were shown RMS’s live feed from over 2,000 wind turbines all over the Iberian peninsula. The software collects and stores 300-400 data points from each turbine in realtime simultaneously.

As Jose said, wind turbines typically cost in the order of €1m per MW so one of the main functions of RMS is to minimise downtime of turbines. However, because it also stores all the historical data for turbines, it is able to plot performance of each turbine against the manufacturers SLA’s. I can see this being a popular screen!

Jose also told us that Logica are taking over the management of all of EDP’s wind turbines in Europe and the America’s. This will mean they will increase the current portfolio they are managing from 2GW to 10GW (though I don’t imagine all 10GW will be under one instance of RMS!

Logica’s Chris Beard gave a fascinating talk on a new Logica offering called Smart Office but I’ll come back to that in a separate post.