U.S. utilities are gaining valuable lessons from technology developments abroad.
Charles W. Thurston is a Fortnightly correspondent based in Sonoma County, Calif. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The assumption that the United States is the world’s technology development leader does not necessarily hold up in the fast-changing global utility sector. R&D and implementation of advanced metering, grid automation, energy efficiency and a host of other fields is progressing rapidly around the world. Indeed, countries in Europe, Asia and other regions are taking a leading role in developing, testing and adopting new technology that cumulatively yields the smart grid.
“Greater automation, procedural discipline and better information management are coming together for non-U.S. utilities, which is driving more rapid technology adoption,” says Ali Ipakchi, the vice president of integration services at KEMA Consulting in Oakland.
Building out electric systems from greenfield conditions permits many developing countries, such as China, to adopt the latest technologies. U.S. utilities, with decades-old T&D infrastructure, have a more difficult task in developing the business case for installing new technologies. Yet the opportunities presented by these technologies have led many U.S. utilities to launch upgrade programs recently. And the successes of central utilities in other countries have encouraged leading American utilities to reorient system planning from the top down, in a holistic vision of the future.