The Smart Grid Task Force of the Greater Houston Partnership Energy Collaborative consists of Houston regional community leaders in the academic, industry, government and non-profit sectors.
In 2009, the task released its vision for making Houston a role model for modernization of our nation’s electric grid infrastructure. Vision for a Regional Smart Grid Cluster 6.0
The Task Force concluded that Houston region can play a significant state and national role in the development of the new business models, technology and customer products associated with the new investments in the Smart Grid market.
The Task Force has recently participated in the launch of the first business accelerator program, the Surge Accelerator, which will focus on helping early stage companies rapidly build businesses by taking Smart Grid ideas from concept to product.
The first Surge class will be held in March 2012. Surge will start accepting applications in December 2011.
What is the Smart Grid?
Smart Grid is the term generally used to describe a vision for the electric delivery system of the future. It was widely recognized that our electricity grid needs to transition to support growing electricity needs in the 21st Century.
Unlike today’s grid, which is one-way, inflexible, insecure and unintelligent, the Smart Grid will include a network of devices as vast, interconnected, automated, and interactive as the Internet.
The Smart Grid will fundamentally change the way consumers and businesses think about and use electricity. The Smart Grid will let us see our energy use, measure it, price it, and manage it in a way that lets us cut waste and get the most for every watt.
A Smart Grid can:
- Improve grid reliability. When customers have lost power in a storm, the dumb grid can’t tell utilities where, but the Smart Grid can.
- Enable energy efficiency. A Smart Grid can tell how much energy a business or household is using and allow consumers to actively reduce their energy usage and drive efficiency measures.
- Provide better information. A Smart Grid can provide real-time information on high prices so that consumers can better manage their energy purchases.
- Facilitate More Renewables. A Smart Grid can make renewable energy practical by allowing the grid to adjust automatically to more electricity generation when the wind blows or the sun shines.
Houston – A Smart Grid Leader
Houston is becoming an acknowledged leader in Smart Grid. Houston’s local utility CenterPoint Energy is in process of deploying 2.4 million smart meters to serve customers in the Houston region.
CenterPoint Energy was awarded a $200 million DOE grant to accelerate smart meter deployment and to upgrade its infrastructure to speed outage restoration to avoid situations similar to that following Hurricane Ike.
The combination of the unique aspects of the Texas electricity grid and the Houston region’s leadership in energy combine to make our economy a logical region for the development of a Smart Grid industry cluster.
The Texas electricity grid is unique in its size and mode of operation. Being far less complex than the east and west grid interconnections, and not being synchronized to the rest of the US grid, ERCOT’s electricity grid can be utilized as an optimal test bed for demonstration of the 21st century technologies and system studies related to penetration of advanced technologies.
Houston has historically been recognized as the “Energy Capital of the World” for its world-class strength in oil and gas, but has increasingly been transitioning its knowledge and resource base to the power sector and, most recently, to renewable energy. A key strength of the Houston region is its deep resource base of knowledge which covers both the traditional and newly emerging sectors of the energy industry. This strength could be leveraged to reengineer the State’s power grid as a model to the rest of the country and the world.
In order to capture this opportunity, the Task Force has recommended that the Houston region play three key roles as a Smart Grid Leader:
- A source of thought leadership regarding protocols, policies, market designs and information technology infrastructure necessary to promote investment in smart grid infrastructure locally, and nationally
- A center of R&D, commercialization and manufacturing of smart grid related technologies, which will increase investment in the local economy, and leverage regional workforce capabilities to provide a growing source of jobs
- The model of smart grid deployment at the distribution and transmission levels, which can provide meaningful scale for development and rollout of new technologies and successful demonstration of capabilities and benefits.
Recent Smart Grid Committee Activities
In partnership with the Houston Technology Center, the Rice Alliance and the GHP Energy Collaborative, members of the Smart Grid Committee have recently launched a business accelerator program, called SURGE Accelerator http://surgeaccelerator.com/.
SURGE is focused on solving the world’s energy problems using software. SURGE works with small entrepreneurial companies to take efficient energy technologies from concept to product in months, rather than years. The SURGE program uses a 12 week mentor-driven “boot camp” format based on successful business accelerator models developed in Silicon Valley, Boulder and other parts of the country. SURGE will join an elite group of the world’s leading accelerators known as the TechStars Network. http://www.techstars.org/network/
SURGE will begin taking applications for the initial class of participants in November and will hold its first program in March 2012. Information on applying for admission into SURGE can be found at http://surgeaccelerator.com/apply/apply_now/.
For More Information on the Smart Grid Task Force
For more information on the GHP Energy Collaborative’s smart grid activities, contact the Task Force Chair, Brett Perlman at 713-933-8836 or at email@example.com