IBM joins European Consortium to build smart grid using renewable energy

IBM (Armonk, N.Y., U.S.A.) last week announced it has joined a collaborative consortium to help develop an energy grid that uses at least 50% of renewable energy sources, such as wind power, solar energy and biogas. Led by a European Union-funded consortium, the EcoGrid EU project will demonstrate a smart energy grid that will allow smart devices to use renewable electricity based on near real-time pricing and availability, according to the consortium.

The EcoGrid EU project will be piloted on the Danish island of Bornholm with 2,000 residents and commercial users, representing approximately every tenth house on the island. Using smart meters and a Web-based app that runs on smartphones, tablets and PCs, consumers can schedule when to purchase electricity online and at what price, says the consortium.  

Project scientists believe that by making this data easily available, participates will choose to purchase renewable energy over fossil fuels, which will result in cost savings. The portal will also enable utilities to manage pricing based on supply, demand and available storage capacity. Selected participants will begin the testing phase towards the end of next year.

With 16 partners from ten different countries, the demonstration will continue for the next 48 months with set goals to increase consumer interest in smart grids, and develop new technologies that will improve energy forecasting and cost balancing, as well as reduce the congestion and losses across the distribution grid, says the consortium.

EcoGrid EU is in support of the European Commission's 20/20/20 plan, which is to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 20%, increase renewable energy usage by 20% and to reduce energy consumption through improved efficiencies by 20% by the year 2020, says EcoGrid EU.  This goal is consistent with the progressive efforts in Denmark to increase its production of renewable energy to 50% of total generation by 2020 to support increased usage. The Danish Energy Agency has recently reported that renewable energy use is up by 14%.

“We need an intelligent electricity system which can integrate more wind power and other renewable energy sources,” says Lykke Friis, the former Minister for Climate and Energy, Denmark.  “In order to make the setup work in the future, it is necessary to turn all resources in regional grids into active players, exactly as it will happen in Bornholm."

Consumers will be at the forefront of this project with smart controllers being installed in all of the participating homes. These will be used to automate select appliances such as dishwashers, heat pumps and electric water heaters as energy prices adjust in five-minute increments, says EcoGrid EU.  In addition, residents will receive relevant information about their electricity production, consumption, and price points, adding a new level of awareness and participation that should lead to increased energy savings.

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