Cisco Systems is unveiling its Smart Grid initiative, a move to offering an end-to-end communications platform based on IP protocols to a power industry under pressure to create more electricity and to do so more efficiently. The Cisco platform will be a combination of products already in its portfolio and new solutions that will be offered over the next 12 to 18 months. The push follows on Cisco's announcement in January of its EnergyWise solutions, which will be key building blocks for the Smart Grid initiative. Other vendors, including Analog Devices, also are targeting their technologies at creating a more energy-efficient power grid.
Cisco Systems is turning its vast networking expertise to the power
industry, outlining a strategy to help utilities and their customers
more efficiently manage power supplies and energy consumption.
Cisco's Smart Grid initiative, announced May 18, is designed to
offer a communications fabric based on IP standards that would touch
not only the companies that generate and distribute electricity, but
also the end users that consume it, according to company officials.
"Ultimately this will help utilities manage their supply," and end
users manage their consumption, Marie Hattar, vice president of network
systems and security solutions at Cisco, said in an interview.
Hattar said demand to create more efficient power grids is growing
to the point that Cisco expects this will be a $20 billion-a-year
global business within five years.
Other vendors also are looking for ways to more power distribution
more efficiently. Analog Devices May 18 announced new
simultaneous-sampling ADCs (analog-to-digital converters) that
officials say will help utilities, under pressure due to rapidly rising
electricity demand worldwide, monitor and control energy consumption,
cost and quality.
Cisco already has begun aiming its technology at the power industry.
A member of the six-year-old GridWise Alliance, Cisco in January rolled
out its EnergyWise energy-efficient networking technology for
businesses. Hattar said that in a world where power demand is
increasing and businesses are looking for ways to reduce their energy
costs-for both economic and environmental reasons-creating a more
energy efficient power grid is essential.
Cisco also is working with several utility companies-including
General Electric, Florida Power and Light and Silver Spring Networks-on
a Smart Grid project in Miami, and with other companies and the
Environmental Defense Fund on the Pecan Street Project, which is aimed
at making Austin a key testing ground for clean energy and Smart Grid
"The talk is real," she said. "It's no longer a matter of -if,' but when smart grids are going to happen."
Currently, electrical outages cost U.S. businesses about $50 billion
a year, according to the Electrical Power Research Institute. The
institute says that smart grids will reduce the impact of outages and
cut U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 60 million to 211 million metric
tons of carbon each year by 2030. Pilot programs around the country
have shown a 10 to 15 percent decrease in household energy consumption
when Smart Grid technology is used.
Cisco officials also quoted a GridWise report that said efforts by
the Obama administration around renewable energy could result in
280,000 new jobs.
Cisco's ambitious plans call for the use of products the company
already offers and a host of solutions that are coming over the next 12
to 18 months, Hattar said. The company's switches and routers already
are based on IP standards that can bring intelligence, security and
efficiency to large and small electricity substations, and will help
bring remote management and automation capabilities to utilities'
transmission and distribution platforms.
Cisco's EnergyWise solutions also will be the basis for its Business
Energy Management solutions, which will help businesses optimize power
throughout their operations by using the network as the platform. The
company's network security offerings will form the foundation of its
Secure Architecture of Energy.
Cisco also will take advantage of its data center portfolio-which will grown as the company rolls out its Unified Computing System
strategy-and lifecycle services also will be key pieces to the overall Smart Grid initiative.
In addition, Cisco will build offerings for IP-based backhaul
communications for smart meters that will enable utilities to integrate
proprietary solutions and overall Smart Grid platform, allowing them to
preserve many of the investments they've already made, Hattar said.
Cisco also will partner with a host of technology and utility companies to build out its offerings.
Company officials said there already is growing demand around the
world for smarter energy platforms. For example, Ontario officials in
Canada have mandated that smart switches be used in all businesses and
homes by 2010, and European governments are shooting for 20 percent of
its energy to come from renewable sources by 2020. China has a
five-year plan in place to use smart sensors for its largest generators
and substations by 2012, and the U.S. government is investing $11
billion in Smart Grids.
There are a number of benefits for both utilities and households
from the use of Smart Grid technologies, Hattar said. Utility companies
can see a 30 percent increase in reserve capacity and a 39 percent
reduction in power generation greenhouse gas emissions.
Homeowners can see savings of up to 12.5 percent on their energy bills, she said.