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Hydro-Quebec among initial IBM Smarter Energy Research Institute members


October 25, 2012
By Anthony Capkun

October 25, 2012 – IBM today announced the launch of the Smarter Energy Research Institute (SERI), an industrial research collaboration model aimed at accelerating innovation across the global energy and utilities market. Among the initial members, Canada’s Hydro-Quebec.

IBM says SERI is a first-of-a-kind collaboration between corporate research and the energy & utilities industry to “transform leading energy companies through the use of predictive analytics, system optimization and advanced computation to deliver better services to their customers”.

The institute will focus on five core innovation tracks to pursue joint research and where shared investments, knowledge and capabilities will benefit every member. Each company will identify and be active in up to two tracks that match their business and operational priorities. The areas include:

• Outage Planning Optimization: reducing the amount of time a customer is without power.
• Asset Management Optimization: improving the allocation of capital and operational expenses in upgrades and maintenance.
• Integration of Renewables and Distributed Energy Resources (DER): meeting renewable integration and distributed energy resource regulatory targets while ensuring system stability.
• Wide-Area Situational Awareness: detecting anomalies across the grid in real-time to improve resiliency, reliability and energy quality.
• The Participatory Network: using an engagement model to transform relationships with consumers.

Hydro-Quebec is one of the world’s largest hydroelectric power producers, says IBM, and the only North American electric utility operating its own research centre (IREQ).

“This is an important milestone for the industry and for Hydro-Quebec as we intensify our efforts to improve grid performance and stability. Joining forces with IBM Research—which has a world-class department of mathematics researchers at its disposal—will help lead the efforts of our combined resources to address the next phase in smart-grid transformation,” said Jean Lessard, director technology innovation, IREQ.

Expected outcomes of the research include equipping members with the ability to improve planning and reliability of operations through the use of prediction and optimization in the areas of outage and asset management. For example, the creation of coupled-predictive models allow for understanding—days in advance—the impact that a storm would cause on the electrical grid and preemptively position crews and resources to facilitate restoration efforts.

“A shift from ‘fixed’ to ‘condition-based’ maintenance plans based on model-driven asset failure predictions have the potential to deliver significant value creation opportunities for energy and utilities,” says IBM.

In the area of renewable and distributed energy resources, which are prone to extreme variability, IBM says members can leverage predictive and optimization technologies, increasing the accuracy of their forecasts to balance the supply and demand of electricity and take measures that ensure system reliability.

Using advanced computational techniques capable of analyzing streaming data from sensors across the grid in near real-time enable more dynamic monitoring of the entire power system across large geographic areas, says IBM, and offers the potential to reach even higher levels of performance and cost-effectiveness through improved situational awareness.

As a result, members can better navigate the transforming energy and utilities environment, collecting insights from the vast amount of information pervading their networks and systems, notes IBM, add further intelligence to the smart grid and uncover new ways that improve business and operational outcomes.

“Our mission is about bringing research and the energy industry closer together to work jointly on areas critical to the industry’s transformation, and for members to become major beneficiaries in extracting value from the information and communication technology revolution,” said Dr. Dario Gil, SERI’s director and director of energy and natural resources for IBM Research.

As part of their participation, each member obtains usage rights for all the innovation (e.g. algorithms, software, patents) created by every participant.