Smart Grid = Information and Communication Technologies

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Submitted by Canadian Electricity Association 2010–07–12 10:10:40 EDT
Theme(s): Building Digital Skills, Digital Infrastructure, Growing the ICT Industry, Innovation Using Digital Technologies

Summary

The "Smart Grid" is at the core of building a national digital economy. It is envisioned to enable in home conservation and demand management; distributed generation and renewable energy; accommodate generation and storage options; enable new products, services and markets; anticipate and respond to system disturbances in a self–healing manner; and will aim to have resilience against physical and cyber attacks and natural disasters.

This submission looks to respond to the various discussion questions posed in the Improving Canada's Digital Advantage: Strategies for Sustainable Prosperity, Consultation Paper on a Digital Economy Strategy for Canada with emphasis on eight specific themes where Smart Grid applications and solutions will help the digital economy to thrive in Canada.

This submission is divided into eight respective sections: Standardization; Global Research and Development Mandates; Skills and Training; Infrastructure; Spectrum; Energy Efficiency; Distributed Generation and Renewables; and Security.

Section 1, Standardization, looks to respond to the following discussion questions:

  • Should Canada focus on increasing innovation in some key sectors or focus on providing the foundation for innovation across the economy?
  • Are current regulatory and legislative frameworks conducive to incenting investment and competition? What are the appropriate roles of stakeholders in the public and private sectors?

Section 2, Global Research and Development Mandates, looks to respond to the following discussion questions:

  • Are current regulatory and legislative frameworks conducive to incenting investment and competition?

Section 3, Skills and Training, looks to respond to the following discussion questions:

  • What do you see as the most critical challenges in skills development for a digital economy? What is the best way to address these challenges?
  • What can we do to ensure that labour market entrants have digital skills?
  • What is the best way to ensure the current workforce gets the continuous up–skilling required to remain competitive in the digital economy?
  • What efforts are needed to address the talent needs in the coming years?

Section 4, Infrastructure, looks to respond to the following discussion questions:

  • Should Canada focus on increasing innovation in some key sectors or focus on providing the foundation for innovation across the economy?
  • Do our current investments in R&D effectively lead to innovation? Would changes to existing programs better expand our innovation capacity?

Section 5, Spectrum, looks to respond to the following discussion questions:

  • What steps should be taken to ensure there is sufficient spectrum available to support advanced infrastructure development?
  • How best can we ensure that rural and remote communities are not left behind in terms of access to advanced networks and what are the priority areas for attention in these regions?

Section 6, Energy Efficiency, looks to respond to the following discussion questions:

  • Are current regulatory and legislative frameworks conducive to incenting investment and competition?
  • What is needed to innovate and grow in size of the ICT industry including the number of large ICT firms headquartered in Canada?
  • What would best position Canada as a destination of choice for venture capital and investments in global R&D and product mandates?

Section 7, Distributed Generation and Renewables, looks to respond to the following discussion questions:

  • What speeds and other service characteristics are needed by users (e.g., consumers, businesses, public sector bodies and communities) and how should Canada set goals for next generation networks?
  • How best can we ensure that rural and remote communities are not left behind in terms of access to advanced networks and what are the priority areas for attention in these regions?

Section 8, Security, looks to respond to the following discussion questions:

  • Once anti–spam legislation, and privacy and copyright amendments are in place, are there new legislative or policy changes needed to deal with emerging technologies and new threats to the online marketplace?

All Sections also look to respond to the following discussion questions:

  • Which conditions best incent and promote adoption of ICT by Canadian businesses and public sectors?
  • What would a successful digital strategy look like for your firm or sector? What are the barriers to implementation?

Submission

1. STANDARDIZATION

THEME: Capacity to Innovate Using Digital Technologies — Building a World–Class Digital Infrastructure

A standard is a change agent, a strategic tool to influence the market, and an essential requisite supporting economic prosperity. Interoperability is requisite for Information and Communication Technology (ICT) applications and the Government must support the standardization process to ensure the suitability, safety and interconnectivity of products, processes and services for use together under specific conditions. It is imperative that Government recognize ICT standards as both technical blueprints necessary for interoperability and connectivity within information infrastructures and as a means with significant public policy and economic importance. Further to this, technical standardization, though all too often underappreciated by the general public, has significant public interest implications with respect to safety, welfare, trade, economic growth, competitiveness, and cost.

Government must recognize its intrinsic responsibility and explicit role to the broader public interest by committing direct financial investments into the operations of the Standards Council of Canada to support national standardization activities domestically and abroad that visibly promote interoperable, innovative, and environmentally sustainable ICT solutions and associated areas for Canadian industry.

"Private sector will play the primary role, but governments can assist by refocusing and realigning existing programs and policy levers to support the adoption of digital technologies across all sectors."

Improving Canada's Digital Advantage Public Consultation Paper — 2010

As an enabler, supporter and driver of a state–of–the art network infrastructure to promote innovation, Government must fund, in its entirety, all existing Standards Council of Canada programs and services thereby sustaining the facilitation of the development, use of national and international standards, and accreditation services enhancing Canada's competitive edge within its digital economy both at home in Canada and internationally.

Global competitiveness of Canadian industry depends critically on standardization, particularly in sectors that are technology driven, to facilitate interoperable solutions to secure a resilient infrastructure to service the public.

"From improving the national and international flow of goods and services to helping enhance and protect the lifestyle, safety and wellbeing of Canadians, standards become even more pivotal to our competitiveness, innovation and growth."

The Honourable Tony Clement, Minister of Industry, June 9, 2009

Standards development organizations are both crucial and essential to technically substantiate industry objectives and to pragmatically decide what interoperable approach best suits specific compatibility infrastructure needs whether with respect to communications, networking, or interfacing. Governments must recognize and remain cognizant that no one standard trumps another and that a specific standard's applicability to any ICT solution is best decided by the industry experts.

Government must remain open and flexible with respect to interoperable standardization solutions (i.e. not a one–size–fits–all approach).

"Policy–makers and regulators must ensure that there is a sufficient level of competition and consumer choice amongst a variety of services, while at the same time facilitating an environment that is conducive to continued network investment."

Improving Canada's Digital Advantage Public Consultation Paper — 2010

Proper standardization processes support open markets, global competition, innovation, and economic growth, thus sustaining an inherent link to public policy objectives and creating an environment conducive to robust ICT investment in Canada.

"The Government of Canada recognizes that it plays an important role in creating a climate for innovation and economic growth for the digital media sector in Canada. This is done through direct investments…"

Improving Canada's Digital Advantage Public Consultation Paper — 2010

Appropriate direct investments include those into Canada's National Standard System and the Standards Council of Canada.

2. GLOBAL RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT MANDATES

THEME: Capacity to Innovate Using Digital Technologies — Building a World–Class Digital Infrastructure and Growing the Information and Communications Technology Industry

From rising energy prices to environmental concerns, today's Canadian electricity industry is facing numerous new challenges and opportunities. The industry is committed to researching new technologies that will offer innovative solutions to global challenges, and to optimize existing infrastructure in order to improve energy efficiency.

Digital information and communications are vital to the research and implementation of emerging electricity technologies such as energy storage, renewable energy, distributed generation, energy conservation and efficiency programs, and carbon sequestration and capture.
As electricity is the cornerstone of any modern economy, these new products and services will greatly improve Canadian productivity across all sectors. Additionally, Canadian expertise in these fields will be an increasingly valuable source of export to foreign markets.

As Canada competes with other nations in a race to develop new digital technologies, the Canadian Government can support the development of a digital economy by offering a competitive fiscal environment, inclusive of tax incentives that encourage both Canadian and foreign investment.

"Governments have a role to play in putting in place the policies and programs that encourage businesses to innovate and compete."

Improving Canada's Digital Advantage Public Consultation Paper — 2010

Investment in digital technologies in the electricity sector will benefit businesses, institutions and members of the public, and ensure Canada's global leadership position in the future.

3. SKILLS AND TRAINING

THEME: Capacity to Innovate Using Digital Technologies — Building Digital Skills for Tomorrow, and Growing the Information and Communications Technology Industry

The most critical challenges in skills development for a digital electricity system are to ensure resource availability and to have federal programs and policies that encourage a flow of qualified workers to the sector, from both international labour pools and underrepresented domestic labour pools. Because of the complex nature of the product that is produced and delivered by the electricity industry the digital workforce will need a combination of advanced training with emphasis on both understanding the electricity system and on the digital skills needed. The electricity sector has benefited enormously from the work of the Electricity Sector Council.

The Sector Council Program must consider that digital skills are fundamental skills that crosscut many industries, and consequently, going forward are needed to be dealt with broadly by many sector councils rather than through specific sector councils.

For the most part jobs in the electricity industry are relatively stable and well paid. A specific National Occupational Classification for certain sectors where there are ICT job opportunities would make it easier for qualified international professionals to access and identify employment opportunities in Canada. As an example, jobs in the electricity industry are currently combined in a classification with manufacturing and processing. This results in a very low profile for the industry internationally and makes it difficult for skilled professionals from other countries to identify comparable opportunities in Canada.

"The Government of Canada has an overarching responsibility to ensure Canada's economic security and prosperity by: growing the labour force by reducing barriers; improving the quality of the labour force by supporting skills development; and enhancing labour markets efficiency through facilitating labour mobility and adjustment."

Improving Canada's Digital Advantage Public Consultation Paper — 2010

Federal and Provincial employment and training programs and funding should not be applied on a comprehensive basis. That is, Government programs and funding ought to be focused on sectors in which the digital skills developed will be of the most benefit to the individual, to society and to the economy.

Directing recent grads and underrepresented groups with ICT skills to industries that have jobs available will ensure that these skills make their way into the Canadian workforce and also increase the perceived value, in the eyes of job seekers, of having such skills.

4. INFRASTRUCTURE

THEME: Capacity to Innovate Using Digital Technologies — Growing the Information and Communications Technology Industry

Electricity systems globally are entering a new era of transformation. The global push for conservation and more stringent environmental policies requiring industry to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs), combined with recent technological developments have culminated in the development of smart grid technology that has the potential to radically transform many aspects of the electricity sector.

Information and communication technologies are a key component of this emerging smart grid paradigm that is changing our views of what the electricity system of the future will look like.

At present, there is a tremendous opportunity for the federal government to take a leadership role in the development of smart grid technologies to meet the emerging challenges associated.

"[G]overnments must ensure that Canada has an investment climate that attracts and retains strategic investments."

Improving Canada's Digital Advantage Public Consultation Paper — 2010

The critical need for the renewal of Canada's existing electricity infrastructure must be addressed. The International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates that an investment of US$221 billion by 2030 is required.

The recent American Recovery and Reinvestment Act targeted approximately $US 80 billion for renewable energy and energy efficiency programs, support for increased research and development (R&D), infrastructure, and other energy investment measures. Moreover, pilot projects in several US States have led to the development of Smart Grid test cities. Strategic partnerships with municipalities and industry could lead to the creation of similar cutting edge projects in Canada. Other examples of U.S. investment in smart grid technology and clean energy initiatives include billions for matching grants for smart grid technology, loan guarantees for renewable energy systems, and over $3 billion for energy research.

Recent investments made by the federal government through the Green Infrastructure Fund and Canada's Economic Action Plan are an excellent start.

Investments to renew the existing electricity infrastructure coupled with the creation of a Canadian Smart Grid Fund, similar to the government's Green Infrastructure Fund, to fund R&D and smart grid technology pilot projects is needed to ensure that Canada is the forefront of emerging technologies that will form the smart electricity grid of the future, not only in Canada, but around the world.

5. SPECTRUM

THEME: Capacity to Innovate Using Digital Technologies — Building a World–Class Digital Infrastructure

By providing a reliable and cost effective source of energy, the electricity industry enables the operations of virtually all other activities, both in the marketplace and with regards to sovereignty, security, and public safety. Utility communications are critical for the operation of Canada's electricity generation, transmission, and distribution systems. As such, electric utilities are the foundation of the emerging digital economy.

Electric utilities are the foundation of the digital economy. The allocation of a 30 MHz band (1800–1830 MHz) by Industry Canada for the exclusive management of the electricity supply was and continues to be a significant enabler of the Smart Grid in Canada. In order for the 1.8 GHz to continue to facilitate the development of the Smart Grid network in Canada, it is imperative that Industry Canada enable large scale utility deployments by retaining this band exclusivity and by aligning the 1800–1830 MHz with the public safety fee structure (4.9 GHz).

"Governments must support these actions by ensuring that current programming and policy framework are aligned to support ICT investment across key industry sectors."

Improving Canada's Digital Advantage Public Consultation Paper — 2010

Electric utilities deploy a wide range of radio systems for operations and management of the electricity supply. Mandated provincial smart metering programs, the need for greater monitoring and control of distribution systems, in addition to the recent commitment made by the Government of Canada to develop a national digital economy strategy has made it absolutely critical for utilities to build Smart Grid networks to support both urban and rural communities. These networks demand a higher level of network reliability to support the deployment of advanced broadband IP–based technologies. The allocation of a 30 MHz band (1800–1830 MHz) by Industry Canada in 2008 for the exclusive management of the electricity supply was and continues to be a key enabler.

Coupled with the need for appropriate and exclusive spectrum is the need for this access to be cost effective for utilities. In order for the 1.8 GHz to continue to facilitate the development of the smart grid in Canada, it is imperative that Industry Canada enable large–scale utility deployments by aligning the 1800–1830 MHz with the public safety fee structure (4.9 GHz). A population–based licensing approach coupled with an administratively–based fee, as seen for 4.9 GHz, would create an ideal environment for Smart Grid development.

The energy and utilities sector has long been recognized by Public Safety Canada as part of Canada's critical infrastructure, which includes those physical and information technology facilities, networks, services and assets which, if disrupted or destroyed, would have a serious impact on the health, safety, security or economic well–being of Canadians or the effective functioning of governments in Canada. As such, electric utilities should continue to have access to exclusive spectrum, and at a cost that is based exclusively on departmental licensing administration fees.

6. ENERGY EFFICIENCY

THEME: Capacity to Innovate Using Digital Technologies — Building a World–Class Digital Infrastructure

Energy conservation has played a minor role, in comparison to supply and decarbonization policies, in efforts to secure a sustainable, secure energy future. The availability of advanced information and communication capability in the electricity grid will provide more opportunities for Canadians to manage their energy consumption and consequently their energy costs. As an example, some appliance makers have committed that by 2015 all models will be Smart Grid compatible. Smart appliances will be equipped to accept signals to go into an energy–saving mode or to turn off.

In order to encourage Canadians to take advantage of the advanced information and communication capability offered by the smart grid, government policies and programs will need to reflect a greater balance in emphasis between electricity demand and supply.

The integration of information and communications technology into the electricity grid will provide the opportunity for Canada to address energy demand and maximize its energy efficiency potential resulting in increased economic competitiveness, improved energy security and to cost effectively reduce GHG and other emissions.

7. DISTRIBUTED GENERATION / RENEWABLES

THEME: Capacity to Innovate Using Digital Technologies — Building a World–Class Digital Infrastructure

Conventional electricity generation generally takes place at large generating facilities located away from load centres. These generating facilities are also typically located too far away from population centres to allow for recycling of waste heat for heating homes or businesses. The transmission of electricity over long distances often results in line losses.

Distributed generation facilities, conversely, are typically built much closer to cities and load centres, often making use of renewable energy sources, such as wind, biomass, solar, and small–scale hydro. As a consequence, distributed generation has practical applications in some settings.

Government must recognize both the economic and environmental benefits of distributed generation, and support its development.

Challenges currently exist, however, with respect to distributed generation requiring highly sophisticated information technology systems to be integrated into the existing power grid. Distributed generation loads, in particular from wind or solar farms, are highly intermittent and require the system operator to carefully monitor output. Smart Grid IT applications allow for this system visibility.

As distributed generation and its supporting information and communication technology are still in their infancy, Canada stands to gain a competitive edge and become an international leader in this area.

"As part of the March 2010 Speech from the Throne, the Government of Canada highlighted the importance of adopting new technologies across the entire Canadian economy to create jobs, foster growth and create new opportunities for Canadians."

Improving Canada's Digital Advantage Public Consultation Paper — 2010

8. SECURITY

THEME: Capacity to Innovate Using Digital Technologies

The Government of Canada's National Security Policy (NSP), entitled "Securing an Open Society: Canada's National Security Policy," was released in April 2004. This policy committed the government to "convene a high–level national task force, with public and private representation, to develop the National Cyber–security Strategy to reduce Canada's vulnerability to cyber–attacks and cyber–accidents." While consultations have taken place over the intervening six years, and the government has committed to releasing a national strategy in the recent Speech from the Throne, no national cyber security strategy is yet in place.

What is required may not be a new initiative; rather the fulfillment of a commitment of the Government in 2004 and re–affirmed in the recent speech from the throne, and that is the introduction of a national cyber security strategy.

Such a strategy should enable a more effective partnership between the public and private sector, which owns and operates 85 percent of Canada's infrastructure, as well as academia, to ensure that new legislative or policy initiatives in the area of the protection of digital technologies meet the security needs of Canadians.

CONCLUSION

Building Canada's Digital Economy will seemingly be centered on the emerging Smart Grid given that in home conservation, demand management, and new products, to name a few, are evidently dependent on an electric utility system that provides flows of both electricity and information.

This submission responded to a number of the posed discussion questions in the Improving Canada's Digital Advantage: Strategies for Sustainable Prosperity, Consultation Paper on a Digital Economy Strategy for Canada and outlined eight areas where ICT and the digital economy in Canada are dependent on Smart Grid applications and solutions.

It is CEA's recommendation that Government:

  • Must commit direct financial investments into the operations of the Standards Council of Canada;
  • Must remain open and flexible with respect to interoperable standardization solutions;
  • Must support the development of a digital economy by offering a competitive fiscal environment, inclusive of text incentives that encourage both Canadian and foreign investment;
  • Must consider that digital skills are fundamental skills that crosscut many industries and are needed to be dealt with broadly by many sector councils rather than through specific sector councils;
  • Must deliver programs and funding that are not applied on a comprehensive basis, but focused on sectors in which the digital skills developed will be of the most benefit to the individual, to society and to the economy;
  • Must take a leadership role in the development of Smart Grid technologies;
  • Must fund Smart Grid technology research and development pilot projects;
  • Must align the 1800–1830 MHz spectrum with the public safety fee structure (4.9 GHz);
  • Must modify Government policies and programs to reflect a greater balance in emphasis between electricity demand and supply;
  • Must gain a competitive edge and become an international leader in distributed generation, recognizing both the economic, and environmental benefits by supporting its development; and,
  • Must fulfill their commitment in 2004 and re–affirmed in the recent speech from the throne the introduction of a national cyber security strategy.

We at CEA would appreciate the opportunity to discuss any of these elements further at a time that is convenient for you and thank you for the opportunity to express the importance of ICT within the electric utility sector.

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