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Cities of the Future

Smart grids bring together power sources and data, creating new possibilities for consumers

CEMIGThe city of Sete Lagoas, in the state of Minas Gerais, is one of the three Brazilian pilot cities experimenting with smart grid electricityCEMIG

In November, the delightful town of Búzios, on the coast of the state of Rio de Janeiro,  became the latest city to serve as a pilot for the implementation of a revolutionary concept in the distribution and control of electrical power.  Búzios will follow other cities, such as Sete Lagoas, in the state of Minas Gerais, Parintins, in the state of Amazonas, or Aparecida, in the state of São Paulo, or even Boulder and Columbus, USA, Stockholm, Sweden, and Malaga, Spain. They can be called the cities of the future because they are experimenting with a type of power management that will result in better power use and new forms of generation, interaction and use of electricity for power producers and distributors  as well as consumers. Called smart grids, these systems make all data digital and broaden the participation of consumers, who will receive more information on consumption, costs and saving energy.

In Búzios, the utility company Ampla has begun to install the first batch of equipment needed for smart grid systems: electronic meters capable of providing consumers with new information, such as the rate that is being charged at that instant, monthly costs, power interruptions, and the times at which more electricity is used in the house. By 2014, 10,000 new meters will be installed in the city, which has a population of 28,000. In total, along with the recently opened monitoring center, the company will invest 40 million Brazilian reals in the entire smart grid project in Búzios. Ampla’s parent company is the Spanish utility Endesa, which is turning Malaga into a smart city with an investment of €30 million. There, in a manner similar to that of other cities of the future in Europe and the United States, it seeks to manage the power sector in a way that will result in energy savings of 20% and a reduction of 6 million tons per year of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, a result of burning coal to generate electricity. Thus, more attention will be given to renewable energy production.

In Búzios, on the coast of the state of Rio de Janeiro, a wind generator is connected to the utility company’s monitoring center

AmplaIn Búzios, on the coast of the state of Rio de Janeiro, a wind generator is connected to the utility company’s monitoring centerAmpla

In Spain, as in Brazil, it all starts with changing the meter. In the future, along with all the information meters can provide, they will also eliminate the reading done once a month by a utility company employee. Data will be collected through the wiring or other communication systems using radio, fiber optics and even satellites. Currently, the new meters measure power consumed every 15 minutes and may indicate at what time, for example, it would be cheaper to use the washing machine or the electricity-powered shower. Starting in January 2014, the utility companies must install one of these electronic meters with a monitoring screen at no cost for consumers who choose the “white rate.” Unlike the current rate, the new rate will be higher during peak hours—between 5pm and 10pm, depending on the region, or at lunchtime—and lower at other times, especially at dawn, when consumption falls and surplus power is available.

The most radical opportunity provided by the smart grid system is self-production of power by consumers, through photovoltaic panels, wind turbines or even electric cars parked in the garage, resulting in discounts on power coming from the utility companies like Eletropaulo, Eletrobras, Cemig, Light or CPFL, among others. Those familiar with the two-way street of the Internet, where everyone acts as both a receiver—obtaining various types of information—and as an emitter—posting text and video—will be comfortable with smart grids. Aside from using traditional power, residential consumers will be able to export power generated to the grid when they do not need it, for example while on vacation. A screen on the new meters will indicate the flow of power in both directions.

To make the smart grid a reality, equipment and software are being installed in the cities of the future and in localized experiments in the cities of São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. The power companies expect to have greater control of the power supplied, avoiding losses of up to 13%, or R$7 billion per year according to the Brazilian Electricity Regulatory Agency (Aneel). These are what are called non-technical losses, which occur in national distribution networks largely due to electricity theft through illegal diversions, in addition to losses due to poorly maintained or worn equipment. They can also minimize blackouts with greater control and redirection of power when defects and accidents occur in the networks. Controlling losses and making the power system more efficient will be very important given the average annual consumption growth of 4.3% from 2012 to 2021 predicted by the Energy Research Company (EPE) of the Ministry of Mines and Energy (MME).

056-057_Smartgrid_202-1_novoAneel has required smart grid R&D in 178 signed Brazilian power concession agreements. The companies must invest 1% of net revenues in R&D projects and energy efficiency. Many of the initiatives have already been regulated, including the generation of power by the consumer. “Aneel, through a resolution, established that beginning on December 13, 2012, utility companies must be prepared to start dealing with consumers wishing to install a micro or mini generation unit on their properties. The power fed into the grid will be converted into credits that will reduce the consumer’s electricity bill,” says André Pepitone, director of Aneel.

Isolated experiments
“A smart grid is a way to add functionality and intelligence to power networks to increase efficiency and quality and reduce costs for consumers,” says Denys Cláudio Souza, Superintendent of Development and Distribution  Engineering at Cemig (the Minas Gerais Power Company), the utility company that has chosen the city of Sete Lagoas (MG), with 214,000 inhabitants, located 70 km from Belo Horizonte, as a pilot project. Eletrobras, however, chose Parintins—an island in the Amazon River in the state of Amazonas, 420 km from the state capital Manaus—to be its pilot. The city, with 102,000 inhabitants, was chosen because it is an isolated system where all electricity is provided by diesel generators and there is a need for better monitoring of changes in power consumption throughout the day. The company plans to spend R$22 million on the project. Fourteen thousand meters are being changed.

Another Eletrobras partner is the CPqD (Center for Research and Development in Telecommunications), which is implementing software solutions for advanced measurements and customer-utility company relationships in Parintins. “In another project we are collaborating with Celpe (the Pernambuco Power Company) to deploy advanced metering and network automation equipment in the Fernando de Noronha archipelago in order to make local power, produced by diesel generators, more efficient and sustainable,” says Luiz Hernandes, coordinator of the CPqD smart grid group. “The distributors are now investigating the potential, technology structures and costs of smart grids, in addition to consumer power profiles,” says Hernandes. “With greater knowledge of consumer behavior and the grid, the utility company will be able to more precisely establish maintenance priorities and make system operation more efficient, in addition to buying power from generators operating hydroelectric sources.”

Innovative companies
Many of these new solutions were developed specifically for the domestic context by companies with research operations in Brazil or by multinationals with offices here. Most of the Brazilian companies focus on software, such as Concert Technologies, a company based in São Paulo with an R&D center in Belo Horizonte, in the state of Minas Gerais. One of the company’s products is software already installed in Cemig’s control room, in the state capital, for real-time data processing using information coming from sensors scattered throughout the grid. “Another R&D project related to smart grids is being developed by Concert, which developed a device for network monitoring and a new power transformer equipped with sensors capable of detecting the location of network failures,” says Ângelo Fares Menhem, the company’s Chief Technology Officer. The transformers transform the medium voltage of the street cables to the low voltage (110-220 volts) used by home consumers, for example.

056-057_Smartgrid_202-2Alexandre AffonsoThe project was developed in partnership with Eletropaulo, which serves the São Paulo Metropolitan Region. The transformer prototype has been approved and is now in the engineering development phase. “As we are a development company, primarily producing software for use in real-time situations, we do not intend to manufacture the equipment on a large scale. We have an agreement with Eletropaulo to license the device to one or more manufacturers,” says Menhem. Another newly developed set of equipment was custom-made for Light, the utility company serving 31 municipalities in the state of Rio de Janeiro. It is an electronic meter developed by the Lactec (the Institute of Technology for Development), in Curitiba, Paraná. “We have been developing a meter since 2010 that can be installed in every home or on a pole to serve up to 12 residences. Its most important feature is that every home will have a device that contains a display the size of a smartphone, although thicker, which can be plugged into an outlet and hung on a screw on the wall or placed on a table. With five lines of text on the screen in black and white, the consumer will have access to information including current consumption,” says Carlos Purim, manager of the Lactec Electronics and Computing Department. The consumer will also have information on monthly costs, and can set goals and monitor if he is meeting his monetary goals. When the differentiated rates take effect in 2014, the meter will inform the consumer of the rate he is paying using lights, green (lowest), yellow (middle) and red (most expensive). The information between the meter and the display will be transmitted to the utility company via a wireless mesh network. Three hundred meters will be installed in homes in Rio de Janeiro. “After this field test, we will transfer the technology to a company,” says Purim.

Confidential information
In Sete Lagoas, Cemig and CPqD also created solutions for an advanced automation system. “We developed mathematical algorithms for the automation of smart grids in the event of defects requiring reconfigurations, transferring power sources, and isolating affected areas without compromising areas larger than the location of the problem, as occurs today with blackouts,” says Hernandes, from CPqD. The advanced control of networks is also on the agenda of São Paulo-based CAS Tecnologia. The company specializes in control platforms for power networks and is working with 16 utility companies. “We have developed a line of devices that act as the points where the consumer data converges,” says Welson Jacometti, President of the company. Using the data collected on the network, he says it will be possible, for example, to remotely control street light brightness if the bulbs are replaced with LEDs, reducing the intensity in the middle of the night. “This practice could reduce the street light power bill of local governments by 30%,” says Jacometti. Traffic lights can also be integrated into the smart grid, and in the event of a power outage, the utility could automatically alert the traffic police.

Changing a meter in Rio de Janeiro and the device created through a partnership between Light and Lactec for use in residences. It will allow greater control of consumption

Changing a meter in Rio de Janeiro and the device created through a partnership between Light and Lactec for use in residences. It will allow greater control of consumption

Given the data that can be captured by a smart grid, soon utility companies will receive mountains of customer and network information. “We work on systems to control and organize this process. We manage the data needed for utility company planning,” says Carlos Fróes, CEO of KNBS, a small business in Campinas, begun as a State University of Campinas (Unicamp) start-up.  “The utility company CPFL, for example, operates in more than 500 municipalities in the states of São Paulo, Paraná, Rio Grande do Sul and Minas Gerais, with more than 7 million customers. Imagine if the company received one information packet per minute from each customer,” says Fróes. “So we worked on information quality, selecting only what is important.”

In addition to technical network information, the data collected also includes power usage profiles at different times of the day for each household, how many people are probably resident or if the house is empty, for example. What is the value of this data? How can its theft from the network be prevented? Some of the solutions are already part of the Internet and banking security, such as encryption and data transfer with digital certification. “We developed and filed a patent for a power meter that allows data traffic with encryption and digital certification,” says Purim, referring to the Light design, which had support from Lactec, in addition to assistance from CPqD and CAS. “The smart grid concept is a true revolution, resulting in a radical change in the relationship between companies and consumers,” says Professor Gilberto Jannuzzi, from Unicamp, also director of the MME Steering Committee for Energy Efficiency Indicators. According to Jannuzzi, the smart grid will incorporate new, more efficient technologies for the end consumer, bringing together the power and telecommunications networks. “But we must ensure information privacy and network security.”