Thursday, October 6, 2011

Should we convert our electrical energy to methane?

At night between 11 PM and 4 AM there is an overcapacity of electrical energy. With the installation of wind energy, this overcapacity will even increase, since the is no merit in not using the wind to produce energy. In a smart grid, we will have time-of-use pricing for electrical energy and smart appliances being able to pick an economically good time to use energy. However, most appliances will still need to run during daytime or evening. Since electrical energy cannot be easily stored, we are in need for profound ideas to solve this issue.
Synthetic methane production
One possibilty could be the use of electrical energy to create methane, which can then be stored and used later for heating, cooking, or driving. In this process, first an electrolysis is performed to split water (HO2) into its components hydrogen(H) and oxygene(O). The hydrogen is then used to create methane or other gaseous fuels. Therefore, CO2 is added to produce methane (CH4). The produced methane is greenhouse-neutral since the amount of CO2 creation when being burned is exactly balanced by the amount of CO2 used in the production.
The biggest disadvantage of the approach is the limited efficiency of the method (about 50% of the energy is lost in the creation process, in total the efficiency is around 20-30%) and the comparably low price of natural methane sources. However, as soon as Russia is going to rise the gas prices, I'm gonna start my electrolyzer.

CfP: IEEE International Conference on Smart Grid Engineering (SGE’12)

27-29 August, 2012

University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT)
2000 Simcoe St. N.
Oshawa, ON, L1H 7K4

The Smart Grids are electricity networks that promise to enhance the operational efficiency of nationwide power supply via distributed generation with bi-directional electricity flow. This objective is achieved by allowing intelligent monitoring and control of different components within the distribution and transmission lines as well as other systems from utilities on one side to the end user on the other side, while maintain the power quality, security, reliability and safety with minimum environmental impacts. Governments around the world are investing heavily in this technology to ensure optimum energy use and supply, enable better planning for outage responses and recovery, and facilitate the integration of heterogeneous technologies around the grid, such as renewable energy systems, electrical vehicle networks, and smart homes. Smart Grids present enormous engineering challenges in the design and integration of electrical grid with communication and network technologies, along with substantial questions around required security and privacy of different components within the grid. The SGE’12 conference aims to provide an opportunity to discuss various engineering challenges of smart grid design and operation, by focusing on advanced methods and practices for designing different components and their integration within the grid, and to provide a forum for researchers from academia and professionals from industry, as well as government regulators, to tackle these challenges and to discuss and exchange knowledge and best practices about design and implementation of Smart Grid.

Topics of interest include (but not limited to) the following:
  • Grid infrastructures design, planning, operation and management
  • Power systems design and applications
  • Sensors, communications and network
  • Grid modeling, simulation, and data management
  • Engineering design of grid applications
  • Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV) systems
  • Grid protection, reliability, power quality and maintenance
  • Smart metering, measurement, instrumentation, and control
  • Customer information security and privacy
  • Transmission & distribution lines
  • Renewable energy and distributed generation within microgrids
  • Computation and optimization
  • Smart homes
  • Standardization and interoperability
  • Pricing, policies, and energy planning

Important Dates

Abstract Submission: 1-Nov-2011
First Notification: 15-Dec-2011
Full Paper Submission: 1-Feb-2012
Acceptance Notice: 1-Apr-2012
Camera-Ready Due: 1-May-2012
Conference dates: 27-29 August, 2012

Home appliance energy usage

The Smart Grid will help to balance energy production and consumption.
While we are waiting for the Smart Grid to come, there is something we can do meanwhile - optimizing the energy usage of our local network of electrical appliances. Because one thing is for sure: energy does not come for free now and won't come for free in the future either.
When doing optimization, the important thing is to identify the parts of a system, where an optimization significantly affects the overall outcome. In the blog of the General Electric Company, you can find a nice interactive visualization of the power consumption for a selectable set of typical appliances.
A zero-Watt cloth dryer
(source:Wikimedia commons)
The website application tries to guess power consumption and cost of your set of appliances. While the values are just rough estimates, the numbers still give you a feeling for appliances which are expensive in terms of energy consuming and appliances which are more frugal.

I personally was quite surprised by the high power consumption of an electrical cloth dryer. Luckily, I have the zero-Watt edition at home :-)

Monday, September 26, 2011

Need motivation to save energy? - Go for social media competition!

There is a large potential by closely monitoring the energy consumption of your appliances in a comprehensive overview. Being aware of the largest energy consumers and the general energy demand over the day, one can optimize his/her household to reduce power consumption or to shift consumption to a daytime where the demand/supply situation is better.
However, what is the motivation to do so?
As it can be seen in other situations (like riding a bike vs. taking the car, etc.), saving a few bucks might not be enough motivation to effectively change the consumers' behavior.
Austin Montgomery, University of Waterloo gives a possible solution to this problem in his video "Making the Smart Grid Smarter with Social Media": make it a competition on social networks!

By the way, this is my favorite video from the IEEE SmartGridComm 2011 video contest. Check for the other nominated clips.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Siemens smart grid innovation contest winning ideas

In April 2011, Siemens called for an idea contest on Smart Grid Innovation. Now, the four best ideas out of 464 submitted contributions have been announced in an award ceremony in Berlin on September 15th. The winning ideas in short:
Christian Huder from EIT ICT Labs, (Germany) won one of the four prices with his idea
"Smart Grids - comparison or regulatory approaches and their implications on business models" discussing the roles of state, market, and providers.
Slobodan Matic from University of California, Berkeley, (USA) elaborated successfully on the concept of an "Integrated Modular Architecture for Distribution Automation".
If you want acceptance, you need games. Vasilis Nikolopoulos from Intelen, (Greece) explored this topic under the idea of "Advanced Demand Response Behavioral Gamification". Consumers having used to social media and gaming will be happy to play a game of consumption optimization in the future grid.
Multi-agent systems are a promising model for smart grids. Logenthiran Thillainathan from the National University of Singapore introduces the concept as an architectural paradigm for autonomously operating smart grids.

Congratulations to the winners and looking forward to see the ideas soon in action!

Source: Siemens Smart Grid Innovation Contest - Meet the Winners

Friday, September 16, 2011

Google and Microsoft back away from online power metering

Google PowerMeter and Microsoft Hohm are online web applications that enable consumers to analyze their energy usage and provide energy saving recommendations. The basic idea is to have an  application in the cloud that is using predictions, smart meters, and energy monitoring devices in order to provide you with information and recommendations about your home's power usage.

While Google's application came for free, Microsoft's tool was planned as a product to create revenue. Now, both projects are discontinued. PowerMeter was retired by Google in September 2011, joining the club of Google Wave and Google Health. In Google's official blog, the reason is only briefly stated as "efforts have not scaled as quickly as we would like", which leaves room to some interpretation. Microsoft's Hohm will be discontinued on May 31, 2012 due to a lack of consumer uptake.

This is sad, since a comprehensive user interface with web integration is a major asset in comparison to existing powermeters with their limited LCD displays and gray buttons. Remember, we are talking about an appliance that is basically planned to enter every household, not just being a tool for geeks. We certainly need a convenient user interface here.
With the bailout out of Google and Microsoft, two important drivers of innovation will be missing, on the other hand this might open the market for new developments. Apple, having filed a patent on a smart-home energy management dashboard system seems to be planning something, but it's still unclear what we will get.

Video on Google's PowerMeter when they were still enthusiastic

Three PhD Positions on Smart Energy Systems in Klagenfurt, Austria

Lakeside Labs is looking for researchers in the area of smart energy systems. We work on integrating energy producers and consumers into a smart electricity grid. The goal is to build up a microgrid lab and perform applied research with industrial partners. Three PhD candidates will be hired.

Potential candidates must hold a master degree and should have expertise in at least one of the following areas:
- Embedded Systems
- Energy Systems/Metering
- Network Simulation
- Complex Systems/Self-Organizing Systems

Lakeside Labs is located at the Lakeside Science & Technology Park in Klagenfurt, Austria. It is adjacent to the university campus and international IT companies. We offer competitive salaries coupled with a nice working atmosphere in beautiful southern Austria. Business language is English.

The project is conducted at the Institute of Networked and Embedded Systems at the University of Klagenfurt. The faculty consists of 20 research groups and offers study programs in information and communication technology, informatics, and technical mathematics.

Lakeside Labs is committed to increasing representation of female and international staff members and particularly encourages applications from such candidates. The documents should include a letter of interest, CV, academic certificates and courses, list of publications, and contact details of two references. Selected candidates will be invited for interviews. Please submit your documents before October 31, 2011 as a single pdf file to

e-Energy 2012: where energy, computing and communication meet

Call for Papers
Third International Conference on Future Energy Systems
May 9-11, 2012 -- Madrid, Spain

e-Energy is the conference on future energy systems, where energy, computing and communication meet. The first e-Energy conference was held in April 2010, in Passau (Germany), and the second took place in May/June 2011 at Columbia University, in New York City (USA).

e-Energy 2012 invites submission of two categories of paper: full papers and discussion papers. Full papers should be no longer than 10 pages and discussion papers should be no longer than 4 pages. All papers must present original theoretical and/or experimental research that has not been previously published, accepted for publication, or is not currently under review by another conference or journal. Submissions must be in PDF-format using the double-column ACM format given at Further submission information can be accessed via Proceedings will be published by ACM and appear in the ACM library and IEEE Xplore (subject to agreement by ACM and the IEEE).

Full papers should include a detailed description of research either in progress or completed. A discussion paper describes innovative and novel ideas that have not yet been fully explored, but have the potential to influence the research community. A discussion paper could, for example, expose a new problem, advocate a new approach, re-frame or debunk existing work, report unexpected results from a deployment, or propose new evaluation methodologies. We especially encourage submissions of early-stage work and enticing but unproven ideas.

Papers are to be submitted via EDAS:

Topics of interest include, but are not limited to:

Energy-efficient networking and protocols:
-energy-efficient network architectures
-high-capacity optical transport
-access networks (wired and wireless)
-energy-efficient network components (switches, routers, transceivers, amplifiers, etc.)
-peer-to-peer networking and overlays
-energy, performance, quality of experience trade offs
-sensing techniques and sensor networks for energy efficiency
-energy-efficient data transmission
-security challenges in energy-efficient networking
-instrumentation and measurement of energy-efficient networking

Energy-efficient computing:
-cloud computing and virtualization
-energy-efficient data centers
-energy-efficient application design
-energy-efficient terminal design
-security challenges in energy-efficient computing
-energy and performance trade offs
-design methodologies and tools for energy-efficient services
-instrumentation and measurement of energy-efficient computing

ICT for energy efficiency:
-energy-demand reduction techniques
-demand management in industrial applications
-demand management in domestic applications
-energy monitoring and management
-smart metering and dynamic pricing
-energy-efficient transport and logistics
-energy-efficient buildings

Smart Grids:
-network architecture for future power networks
-networking and computing issues in smart grids
-reliability and power management
-service design and management
-electric vehicles and smart grids
-virtual power plants, distributed generation, microgrids, renewables and storage
-field trials

Important Dates
Full paper due: January 10, 2012
Notification of acceptance: March 25, 2012
Final version due: April 13, 2012

IEEE Journal on Selected Areas in Communications: Smart Grid Communications Series

The IEEE Journal on Selected Areas in Communications (JSAC) has inaugurated a new series on communications for Smart Grid. “Smart Grid” refers to the modernization of the electric grid to enable more efficient generation, transmission, distribution, and usage of energy, resulting in sustainable energy production and consumption with reduced adverse effects on the environment and increased power reliability. While advances in renewable energy and network control are needed, advances in communication technologies, data fusion and mining, and scheduling and optimization are also crucial for realizing this vision. It is anticipated that many of the same communications technologies that have revolutionized our way of life in the past few decades will have direct applicability to Smart Grid, for example, the use of wireless communications in a single distribution network to collect and exchange information about quality, consumption, and pricing of electricity. While many off-the-shelf communications technologies can be deployed today in the Smart Grid, their use may lead to numerous inefficiencies, especially if energymanagement-specific features are not included in data compression and the data collection infrastructure. Moreover, allowing multiple distribution networks to operate side-by-side, interface to customer equipment, and share information in a secure and reliable fashion poses a number of difficult communications challenges that remain unanswered in the context of Smart Grid.

This series focuses on identifying the numerous communication challenges posed by the Smart Grid and exploring research avenues for addressing them. Original contributions that are unpublished and not currently under review by any other journal are solicited in relevant areas of Smart Grid communications including but not limited to the following:

• Physical and MAC layer protocols for Smart Grid applications
• Spectrum sharing, coexistence and interference mitigation in Smart Grid communications
• Network control for the power grid
• Smart Grid sensor data fusion and mining models
• Communications to support demand-response, load, and pricing management
• Smart Grid cyber-physical network modeling and performance analysis
• Measurement data from Smart Grid testbeds and field trials
• Architecture and network topology for Smart Grid applications
• Cyber and physical vulnerabilities and Smart Grid security

Prospective authors should prepare their submissions in accordance with the rules specified in the ‘Information for Authors’ section of the JSAC guidelines ( Each submission will be reviewed by at least three experts and evaluated by an editorial board dedicated to the area of communications for Smart Grid. All manuscripts should be submitted in PDF format via email to Dr. Nada Golmie, While manuscripts can be submitted at any time, they should be submitted according to the following timetable to be considered for the inaugural July 2012 issue:

Manuscript submission: September 15, 2011
First reviews complete: December 15, 2011
Second reviews complete/all acceptance letters sent: March 1, 2012
Materials to publisher: April 1, 2012
Publication: July 2012

Series Editorial Board
Dr. Nada Golmie, Editor-in-Chief, JSAC Smart Grid Communications Series, NIST
Prof. Anna Scaglione, University of California Davis
Prof. Lutz Lamp, University of British Columbia
Prof. Ian Hiskens, University of Michigan

The smart grid challenge

The transformation of our energy system from fossil fuel resources to sustainable resources is one of the great challenges of our time, but opens also a great chance for establishing a more efficient and robust distribution of energy to the benefit of all its users. A way to do this is the intelligent integration of the behavior of all users (generators and consumers) of an electricity grid to optimize the operation of the system, e.g., by balancing energy consumption based on availability and demand.

In order to achieve this goal, we need to define innovative products and services together with intelligent monitoring, control, communication, and self-healing technologies: Electrical devices, generators, and energy storages will be integrated with local intelligence and a network interface. These smart meters will form a network that dynamically adapts pricing and distribution based on demand, supply, and network load. The emerging network will be a self-organizing smart grid which efficiently maintains existing services, allows for prediction of future energy and network requirements.

However, the challenge is not a mere technical one. A main characteristic of the smart grid is that it will allow consumers and suppliers to play an active role in optimizing the system. While this is a very positive aspect, it leads to new challenges such as social aspects like fairness and acceptance, economic aspects such as market stability and resilience against speculation attacks, and legal issues such as warranty, data security and privacy. Last but not least, the smart grid forms a complex system of interacting agents, which will require new models similar to those from physics, biology or economics.

The goals of the smart grid are ambitious. But considering the importance of energy to our society, there is no other chance than to work on it in a global cooperative effort. There is no time to wait.