Energy technology coalition formed to develop San Diego ‘Smart Grid’

The smart grid is a centerpiece of the new national energy policy, helping consumers save energy, take advantage of more sustainable energy choices and create new jobs in the green economy.

“Realizing the benefits of the smart grid is more than just a high-tech experiment,” said Michael R. Niggli, chief operations officer of SDG&E. “SDG&E was the first utility in the continental United States to agree to generate 33 percent of our electricity from renewable resources by 2020, and the smart grid will help pave the way to this goal and develop a more sustainable energy future for all of us.”

“Greater interaction among all the stakeholders is essential to the success of the smart grid,” said Lisa Bicker, president of CleanTECH San Diego. “By leveraging San Diego’s strong history of collaboration we will enable new products, services and markets to fuel an economic engine in San Diego and beyond. In addition, we will bring new clean technology jobs and export opportunities to our region.”

“Where many utilities are looking to launch smart grid technology, SDG&E and UC San Diego have been working together for years and are already implementing it,” said Byron Washom, director of strategic energy initiatives at UC San Diego. “We have all of the elements staged to make this regional demonstration replicable on a national and international scale.”

The smart grid incorporates every aspect of a modern energy system – renewable energy generation, advanced electric transmission and distribution technologies, smart metering and energy storage. The technology also seeks to help utility customers play a central role in not only the consumption of energy, but the production of it, as well.

“San Diego is an ideal location for smart grid development because the region has one of the greenest universities in the nation and plentiful sources of renewable energy,” said Niggli. “We also have civic and industry leaders who are capitalizing on these advantages to attract a critical mass of cutting-edge alternative energy enterprises.”

In addition, San Diego is one of the most “wired” cities in the country with more tech-savvy customers than most cities. A smart grid would enable SDG&E customers to utilize a smart grid to control their energy usage.

In addition to SDG&E, UC San Diego and CleanTECH San Diego, the organizations in the San Diego regional smart grid project include: IBM, GE, Cisco, Intel, Balance Energy—a BAE Systems Initiative, SAIC, Qualcomm, BMC Software, Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories Inc., S&C Electric Company, Itron, The Valley Group—a Nexans company, On-Ramp Wireless, Plug Smart, Tradescape and the San Diego Workforce Partnership. Integral to the team will be the research and development resources at UC San Diego, University of California, Los Angeles and the “Energy Policy Initiatives Center” based at the University of San Diego School of Law. Supporters include the California Independent System Operator, California Energy Commission, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 465, and global support from Alliander in the Netherlands and North Delhi Power Limited.

The federal government has dedicated more than $4.5 billion to smart grid development as part of the economic stimulus package and the San Diego coalition is seeking $100 million of those funds for the project. The coalition will, in part, create a community-scale utility system within the region that can interconnect greater percentages of renewable generation at both the distribution- and transmission-system levels, store electricity and use automated sensors and communication technologies to help manage these intermittent energy resources. The coalition also will focus on accommodating a growing number of electric vehicles and empower customers to exert greater control over their own energy usage with the most advanced technology. If successful, the prototype project could be recreated on a larger scale anywhere in the world.

SDG&E is a regulated public utility that provides safe and reliable energy service to 3.4 million consumers through 1.4 million electric meters and more than 840,000 natural gas meters in San Diego and southern Orange counties. The utility’s area spans 4,100 square miles. Exceptional customer service is a priority of SDG&E as it seeks to enhance the region’s quality of life. SDG&E is a subsidiary of Sempra Energy (NYSE: SRE), a Fortune 500 energy services holding company based in San Diego. In a recent survey, Sempra Energy’s utilities, SDG&E and Southern California Gas Co., ranked No. 1 on the list of 100 “smart” U.S. utilities by Intelligent Utility magazine for pioneering the smart grid.

UC San Diego, a leader in achieving and exceeding University of California sustainability goals, has invested heavily in numerous sustainability programs and projects. The university will soon have only low- and zero-emission vehicles in its 800-vehicle fleet. The campus will generate 3.4 megawatts of renewable energy by 2010 and achieve zero waste and carbon neutrality by 2020. By integrating its continuously available renewable resource with energy storage, UC San Diego will demonstrate for the first time the ability to optimally meet the daily peaks and valleys of customers’ electricity demand loads. A 2.8-megawatt fuel cell that will utilize renewable methane gas as fuel – integrated with energy storage – is the centerpiece project for the campus in providing global leadership in smart grid initiatives.

CleanTECH San Diego is a new non-profit membership organization formed to accelerate San Diego as a world leader in the clean technology economy. It is a catalyst that serves as the hub for a diverse group of stakeholders to advance a common agenda. CleanTECH San Diego advocates for new sources of investment capital, workforce development, international trade, federal and state research funding, targeted regulation, and sustainable land-use planning and development. CleanTECH was instrumental in generating $260 million of Clean Renewable Energy Bonds applications to the US Treasury that would represent 26 MW of solar photovoltaic debt financing if funded.