Vendor Neutral


FEI Company, a diversified scientific instruments company providing electron and ion-beam microscopes and tools for nanoscale applications, completed a multiple system installation at the Materials Ageing Institute (MAI) in France, a utility-oriented research center financed by Electricite de France, the Tokyo Electric Power Co., the Kansai Electric Power Co. and the U.S. Electric Power Research Institute.

Customer Service: 2020

Grid upgrades spark an interactivity revolution.

The smart grid is opening the floodgates on customer data, just as consumers are getting comfortable with retail self-service and mobile apps. With dynamic rates, distributed generation and electric vehicles just around the corner, big changes are coming in the utility-customer relationship. Will IOUs let upstarts control the new energy market?

Grid, Heal Thyself

Automation technologies promise a reliability revolution.

Utilities are using automation and back-office systems to improve their performance on outage management and service restoration. The next generation of smart-grid technologies promises a revolution in self-healing systems. But first the industry must gain confidence in the technology—and the business case for investment.

Regulation by Formula

Tools to facilitate changing utility economics.

These are challenging times for the electric and gas utilities. Reliability projects, renewable portfolio standards, greenhouse-gas emissions control, AMI, smart-grid investments, and conservation programs—all these things add to costs, but might bring in no additional revenue. Moreover, there will be unprecedented capital investment in transmission, renewable generation projects, and replacement of old facilities from the 1950s and 1960s. Thus, earnings likely will be more closely watched and traditional general rate cases might not be able to keep up.

Engaging Customers

Look to other industries for lessons on marketing services.

To get the most from smart-grid investments, utilities need to target customers most likely to participate in smart-grid programs. The new business case requires a new marketing strategy—and a new level of regulatory scrutiny.

Smart Grid Consensus

Workable standards require utility input.

The IEEE P2030 Work Group is developing standards to encourage seamless deployment, integration and operation of energy, information and communication technologies across the smart grid. Utility input and engagement is needed to produce workable standards.

Tomorrow's T&D

The most economical energy savings might be found in grid efficiency.

Power delivery efficiency gains constitute a valuable utility asset that can offset or defer new generation and T&D investments. Enabling technologies, utility demonstration projects and supporting regulatory frameworks are needed to validate potential savings.

Rethinking Prices

The changing architecture of demand response in America.

Pilot projects are demonstrating the potential of smart metering and smart rates to make the most of supply and demand resources. But as empirical studies show, not all pricing designs are equally suited to every region.

O Pioneers!

A land rush in the burgeoning home energy management market.

The Prius Effect—a term that’s gained currency in sustainability circles—is shorthand for the strong link between information and behavior demonstrated by the popular Toyota hybrid. The car was among the first to provide a real-time fuel consumption gage on the dash; step hard on the gas, watch the MPG gage go down. Coast gently along and see the savings. Drivers with the gage become aware of—even obsessive about—the way their driving habits affect consumption, and by extension, cost.