Dispatch from Brazil: Global Intelligent Utility Network Helps Navigate Change

I’ve spent the last several days at the bi-annualI BM Global Intelligent Utility Network event in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Launched in 2007 by IBM and founding member Centerpoint Energy, the Global Intelligent Utility Network Coalition is a group of 14 leading utilities from around the world, jointly serving 160 million customers, all assembled around a common purpose: to collaborate in the market to enable rapid creation of new solutions, adoption of open, industry-based standards, and the shaping of government policies and regulation, all aimed at driving the adoption of the “Intelligent Utility Network” across the world.

This coalition of innovative utility companies was created to accelerate the use of smart grid technologies and move the industry forward through its most challenging transformation. They want to change the way power is generated, distributed and used by adding digital intelligence to the current systems to reduce outages and faults, manage demand, and integrate renewable energy sources such as wind and power.

The members of the Global Intelligent Utility Network Coalition are leading the way in providing a forum for energy providers to collaborate, share best practices and exchange ideas. One of the group’s first efforts was the creation of a Smart Grid Maturity model, which has been used by over 60 utilities from around the world to assess where they are and plan their own smart grid program. It was recently donated to Carnegie Mellon’s Software Engineering Institute for use by the industry. Other collaborations are focused on the impact of the smart grid on climate change, consumer perspectives, standards and interoperability and possible future regulatory models.

I was invited to discuss consumer engagement—an area where Tendril has devoted several years of research to better understand how to activate consumers by providing them with insight, choice and control over their energy usage. Tendril Energize, our suite of consumer applications that began shipping last week and that is built on our SaaS platform—Tendril Connect—is the culmination of our efforts. We’ve found when provided with actionable information and expert and social support, most consumers will begin to make informed choices and than seek more and more ways to control their energy use. In turn, this creates new opportunities for the companies providing the energy to introduce new programs that can go beyond energy efficiency to programs such as demand response, direct load control and eventually, orchestrated home energy management systems (e.g., distributed generation, solar, electric vehicles).

The application of new technology, like our open standards-based SaaS platform and the applications it powers, is creating vast change and opportunities for consumers, energy service providers and product and service providers that will forever change the landscape of the energy industry—the largest industry in the world.

The work being done by the Global Intelligent Utility Network Coalition provides a forum to exchange ideas and help guide the industry through this sea change to ensure it benefits utilities, consumers, the environment and the entire energy ecosystem.