The convergence between information technology, communications, and the electricity sector opens new perspectives.

In my previous article, I had already mentioned the global megatrends that are having a profound impact on the electricity sector and I emphasized the potential of distributed generation. This potential is strengthened by the emergence of micro-networks and smart grids.

Micro-networks and intelligent networks represent in themselves an area of ​​great opportunities, especially in the face of technological advances in control and automation of the operations of large and small users. The information technology (IT) platforms and the convergence between the communication and electrical sectors allow for operational flexibility that did not exist until a few years ago.

To date, the electricity sector has always been forced to maintain large generation capacities as a reserve to avoid power supply failures. A 30% reserve margin is considered as “normal”.

We all consider electric demand as not very flexible. It is almost constant in the different times and days of the week. Only a few large industries could participate in demand control programs through the old I-15 tariff and thus support the national electricity system at critical times of supply.

The internet of things, IoT, now such a fashionable expression, and especially the advances in automation and control allow to create micro-networks and no longer only within a company, factory or building. An industrial park, a shopping center or a residential complex can make their consumption more efficient and take advantage of distributed generation. The different industries within a park, the tenants within a shopping center or the settlers of a residential complex can take advantage of large reductions in their electric consumption and add their buying power to higher rates to achieve better rates.

The new wholesale electricity market sends clear price signals to users. Both the price of the kilowatt-hour, quite accurately with a day’s advance as the price of power and the ease with which you can adapt the consumption at critical times help reduce charges.

We are seeing new combinations of companies that are complementary, the proximity between greenhouses that require CO2 to improve the growth of their plants and community centers that require competitive energy and large amounts of cooling. The developer of an industrial park no longer only thinks about selling or renting their lots. He is learning that both he and his clients earn more money if within the park he plans in advance and with care the vocation of the company and its specific location. A figure within the new legislation of the electric sector creates a very good first approximation that allows us to drive these solutions: the aggregation of loads. The new Qualified Suppliers, such as E2M (Energy to Market), have powerful IT platforms that allow for the convergence between the electricity market, communications networks, and the control and automation platforms of the industrial and building sectors. 

Smart IoT already allows in a planned or remote way to turn off electrical appliances in a controlled manner and according to a previously agreed plan. Several hours a day of high energy prices due to the high consumption of air conditioners coincide with school schedules and work of parents. Residential consumption will be able to respond on a large scale and, if the whole residential complex or the large building add their loads, they will benefit from a strong reduction in the cost of their electricity consumption. In this context, it is worth highlighting the very important impact of energy efficiency measures on the reduction of polluting emissions. But not only the users benefit, the electricity sector in general works more efficiently if households, buildings, shopping centers or industries reduce their consumption, instead of starting an expensive power plant to supply the required energy. The transmission or distribution network looks less “stressed.”

A great advantage of the Electric Reform has been the creation of two independent and neutral companies, CFE Transmisión and CFE Distribución. Having no longer a conflict of interest with own generation assets whose main goal is to sell more energy, they can reduce their investment requirements in large infrastructures and satisfy the demand of generators and users by taking advantage of smart grid technologies. As the co-workers of these two companies discover their new and very important vocation and support these megatrends, their future role will be more important, and their growth will be much greater.

However, the cultural change in these companies is not easy. If these companies find it difficult to provide non-discriminatory access to all market participants, the business sector and the consumer will take advantage of new technologies and become independent from network operators.

The Internet of things, IoT, is creating a whole new opportunity for “narrow band” networks that can collect data from countless sensors in homes, offices and public places, take them to a central processing site and return simple commands like on / off, up or down, etc. There are companies that can start with a great advantage and operate these networks:

CF With the highest penetration and with great requirements for own use, CFE Distribución is available. It has the best basic infrastructure already in place and should take advantage instead of asking users for each person to set up or subcontract their own network.

Obviously, communication companies, cell phones, internet, cable TV, etc. Probably their comfortable income position leads them to neglect these opportunities.

The new shared network is being launched, which could use and provide these services.

Companies that have an important presence in certain regions such as public lighting operators.

And, those that probably conquer this market by having a dedicated approach, are the new companies that seek to create their own networks of “narrow band” and specialize in these solutions.

As we have seen in many sectors, technological advances end up being imposed by their own merits. Our challenge is to be at the forefront of these trends, create regulatory conditions that facilitate entrepreneurs and traditional operators to participate from an early stage and create companies with competitive offers and capable of competing in the international arena.