IBM snags smart-grid pilot deals

In a sign that utilities are taking energy efficiency more seriously, IBM signs up two more utilities for smart-grid pilot programs.

IBM has won two deals to supply IT gear and services for utilities' smart-grid energy-efficiency programs.

Ohio-based American Electric Power on Tuesday said that it has chosen IBM to be the systems integrator for its gridSmart initiative, which is designed to upgrade the distribution grid to better handle distributed power generation, storage, and efficiency programs.

Click on the image to see how much energy different home appliances consume. Department of Energy via IBM

Michigan gas and electric utility Consumers Energy on Tuesday said that it will work with IBM to test out advanced metering infrastructure in a pilot project slated to start early next year.

In smart-grid projects, utilities upgrade the electricity distribution network with communications and data-gathering tools. By getting current information on electricity demand, operators should be able run the grid more efficiently and better spot problems.

In some smart-grid pilots, consumers can get an in-home display of their energy usage and participate in energy-efficiency programs. A household could agree to let utilities dial down appliances, such as clothes dryer, for a short time or take advantage of lower rates by running the dishwasher at off-peak times.

Smart-grid technology has been available for many years, but smart-grid suppliers report that utilities are showing more willingness today to invest in these energy-efficiency programs.

For its part, IBM is investing heavily in smart-grid technology--the intersection of energy and IT--and is involved in several utility smart-grid upgrades around the world.

Last week, IBM and France-based utility EDF announced a research program to study efficiency and "sustainable energy" technologies. This week, it published a video on YouTube explaining the basic concepts of a smart grid.

 

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