General Electric is taking the smart grid platform to the next level. Can it pay off at scale? Plus, 3G cellular and Consert join the project.
Here’s General Electric’s smart grid-as-a-service pitch. The city utility of Norcross, Ga. wants a smart grid, but doesn’t have the money to buy one for itself. GE’s Grid IQ Solutions as a Service will build it for a monthly fee, and then run it all from a giant cloud computing platform in Atlanta.
That, in a nutshell, is the project GE and the Atlanta suburb of Norcross, Ga. announced last week -- and it could mark the start of a new trend. GE hasn't said how much it's charging Norcross per month, or how many months it would take to deliver a profit on the project. But the more utilities GE signs up, the more economical -- or profitable -- the solution becomes.
That’s particularly true on the IT side of the budget. Most utilities don't want to have to buy the servers needed to run today’s smart grid, or to pay the salaries of the people you need to run it. But GE Energy is headquartered in Atlanta, and it has a lot of “computing horsepower” that it can shift around the region, said Mike Carlson, GE Digital Energy’s general manager of smart grid solutions. That could give Norcross and other Grid IQ service customers slices of the huge computing assets they only need every month, to process billing statements, say, or manage emergency response communications during a storm -- and let GE's experts manage it all.
Norcross expects to add about $1 per month to bills for the utility’s 4,200 customers to pay for the project, but they’ll get lower meter management costs, quicker outage management response and quicker restoration times in return, Carlson said. Though Norcross hasn’t approved the budget for future phases of the project, “It also sets them up for advanced energy management, like demand response capabilities, electric vehicle integration, and advanced distribution requirements," he said -- pretty much everything you’d expect the smart grid to connect to someday. Eventually, GE can hand the controls over to the utility after a while, or keep running the entire thing from its central command center....MORE