The International SAP for Utilities event – focus on renewables and in-memory computing

Joschka Fischer

I attended the International SAP for Utilities event in Mannheim recently. This was the fourth SAP for Utilities event I have attended and it was by far the best. This was the first time I was attending the event as a speaker, not just an analyst and that may well have coloured my opinion of the event, but I don’t think so, to be honest. Why?

Well, there were two main take-aways for me from the event

  1. There was a much higher focus on renewables and
  2. There was a lot of discussion of in-memory computing

And neither of those had anything to do with the topic of my own talk (The New Power of the Customer’s Voice).

I knew I was in for an interesting conference when the opening keynote was from Joschka Fischer. Fischer used his keynote to make a blistering attack on the nuclear industry. Fischer, the former German vice-chancellor and Foreign Minister said “we must say goodbye to nuclear energy – it is not safe, and we don’t know the costs”. He went on to state that Germany “is going to phase out of nuclear energy”. Bear in mind that many of the utilities who were in the room would have significant nuclear plants in their generation fleet.

What will Germany use to replace its nuclear power? Renewables and energy efficiency will be key, he said. Germany will need super grids and a smart grid with gas as a backup technology (from diverse regions because, he said, Russia is not a reliable source).

In his opening keynote, Klaus Heimann, apart from talking up two new SAP Energy Management products, declared that “more than ever before we wish we could generate all of our electricity from renewables” and he went on to assert that “if we spent our resources learning how to capture and store natural power, we’d be in a very different place now”.

And this was the first two talks of the conference!

SAP Research director Orestis Terzidis

SAP Research director Orestis Terzidis

Scarcely a talk went by without some reference to renewables – understandable given that this was taking place in the immediate aftermath of the Fukashima nuclear disaster.

The most data-rich talk on renewables, perhaps not surprisingly, came from Orestis Terzidis, VP SAP Research EMEA. He referenced peer-reviewed research throughout his presentation to make his case that large-scale wind, water and solar systems can reliably supply all of the world’s energy needs at reasonable cost.

Interestingly, on the renewables front SAP has put its money where its mouth is. From SAP’s independently verified Sustainability Report you can see that SAP increased its purchase of renewable energy from 16% in 2009 to 48% in 2010.

Nice – obviously 100% would be better than the current 48% but renewables are not available for purchase in all geographies. Yet.

The other core topic heavily referenced in the event was in-memory computing (In-memory computing moves data off traditional storage and into RAM, providing a performance boost over reading data off disks).

Given that utility companies deploying smart grids will be moving from a maximum of one meter read per month to a situation where they will have more data coming from smart meters (more data fields) and coming in more often (one read every 15 minutes means around 2,880 reads per month), utilities are about to face in influx of data like they have never seen before.

In-memory computing is a natural fit for performing any kind of real-time analytics on this tidal-wave of data. Not surprising then that one of SAP’s first in-memory products is going to be a Smart Meter Analytics for Utilities solution.

The next SAP for Utilities event will be the US one this coming September in San Antonio. Given that this one was so good – the pressure is really on conference organisers The Eventful Group to try to exceed, or even just to match this conference.

Full Disclosure – SAP are a GreenMonk client and SAP paid for me to attend and speak at the SAP for Utilities event.

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Photo credit Tom Raftery


REALLY Smart Meters!

Smart meter

Photo Credit yewenyi

Smart electricity meter projects are being rolled out all over the globe at this stage (here’s a map of the Smart Meter projects in the US), and with the Smart Meters, come Smart Grids and Demand Response programs whereby the utilities implement peak shaving programs (and in certain cases demand stimulation) to match demand and supply curves. This will lead to a more stable grid and therefore increase the amount of variable generators (i.e. weather based renewables) it is possible to add to the grid. Great.

However, this is not nearly ambitious enough as far as I am concerned. First off, as I have said previously, cheaper electricity typically has a higher % of renewables in the generation mix. Therefore, if I am getting a smart meter, I want it to be a very smart meter. I want my meter to be going out across the grid, checking the realtime price from all utilities and dynamically sourcing the energy from the cheapest supplier at any given time. Nothing too new there, I have written about that concept previously.

Taking that idea to the next level. Imagine if utilities were mandated to publish, not only the price of electricity in realtime, but also the generation mix. I could then have a Smart Meter which would actively chose the greenest electricity for me at any time. Or the one with the best price/renewables mix.

And if we had a SuperGrid in place, then that Green electricity might be coming from Danish windfarms, Icelandic geothermal generation or North African solar farms.

Now that would be a Really Smart Meter!

UPDATE – I have been asked the relevance of the photo above – it is subtle, anyone care to guess?


GreenMonk talks to Vint Cerf about is the not-for-profit arm of Internet search company Google.

After hearing about some of their initiatives, I was curious to learn more about I contacted my friend Vint Cerf, Google Vice President and Chief Internet Evangelist and asked him if he’d come on the show to talk about and Google’s sustainability projects.

Vint very graciously agreed to and so we have this video. Thanks Vint.