IBM makes smart grid deals in Brazil, South Korea

IBM moved forward with smart grid projects on international fronts in separate deals with the largest privately held energy provider in Brazil and South Korea’s largest utility.

IBM moved forward with smart grid projects on international fronts in separate deals with the largest privately held energy provider in Brazil and South Korea’s largest utility.

In Brazil, IBM (Armonk, N.Y., USA) struck a deal with CPFL Energia Holdings (Campinas, Brazil) to work on projects that are aimed at making CPFL’s energy networks more efficient, more resilient and better positioned for transition to a smart grid. IBM, which is working with CPFL to develop its smart grid strategy, is providing consulting and assessment services on projects in order to pilot automatic meter data collection. CPFL plans to install 25,000 smart meters among its largest business customers by the close of 2012.

IBM also aims to manage the data that flows through the meters. The work includes devising management systems that integrate with CPFL business operations and extend and scale smart metering to 6.5 million residential customers. Lastly, IMB will develop the architecture for a communication network to support CPFL’s smart grid plans.

CPFL, through its distributors, serves 6.7 million customers in four states, including São Paulo.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration pegs Brazil as the world’s ninth largest energy consumer and the third largest in the Western Hemisphere after the U.S. and Canada. Currently enjoying a boom, Brazil’s primary energy consumption has increased by almost a third as the country’s economy has grown in the past decade.

The growth is placing increasing demands on the country’s energy companies to provide adequate, reliable power more efficiently. CPFL’s work with IBM is intended to address those needs by building network capabilities for data collection, communication, analytics and operational efficiency.

CPFL’s upcoming projects mark its “first foray into the smart metering world,” said Michael Valocchi, the vice president and partner who leads IBM’s Global Energy and Utilities unit, who praised CPFL’s efforts in seeking solutions. “This is a company that’s not afraid to look globally for technology, best practices and lessons learned,” he said.

CPFL is a member of IBM‘s Global Intelligent Utility Network Coalition, which is made up of more than a dozen energy companies that are trying to advance the smart grid. The Brazilian firm joined the coalition in 2009 and first partnered with IBM to help determine what it would take to develop a more intelligent energy grid for CPFL and its networks.

IBM announced its work with CPFL and the Korea Electric Power Company (Seoul, South Korea), also a coalition member, at the group’s semi-annual meeting. Korea Electric Power enlisted IBM to help harness the data that’s expected to pour into South Korea’s Jeju Smart Grid Test-Bed project.

The project, formally called the Jeju Smart Grid Test-Bed Demonstration Complex, is being built on Jeju Island in the Korean Strait.

With a budget of about $200 million, which includes $68.5 million in public funds, planners envision the site as the world’s largest smart grid test bed. The project began in December 2009 with construction of infrastructure. Testing integrated operation of the smart grid is scheduled to begin this summer, continue for the next 24 months and in May 2013.

More than 160 companies are expected to use the area as a living R&D lab to test advanced technology, systems to support it and business models developed for a fully connected, intelligent, low carbon community. Korea has a goal of establishing a national smart grid by 2030.

IBM helped the Korea Electric Power Company develop an integrated energy management system for the test bed’s Total Operations Center, which houses the brains and central nervous system for the living lab. Through IBM’s work, the companies and consortia using the test bed will be able to collect and manage information on international markets, monitor smart grid systems and participate in data exchange.

The test bed is designed to enable firms to test advanced smart grid technology, then swiftly scale it and bring it to market. The two latter points are crucial to the pace South Korea has set for reducing its greenhouse gas emissions.

“Getting good technology to the right places is always a challenge when you think about innovation,” Valocchi said.