IBM’s Chinese Smart Grid Ambitions  

Posted by Big Gav in ,

Earth2Tech has an article on IBM's involvement in Chinese smart grid initiatives - IBM’s Chinese Smart Grid Ambitions.

When Forbes reported in November that IBM was launching a major utility and energy research lab in China and planned up to nine big smart grid projects in the country, it came as little surprise to many. After all, China is going to be spending much more than the U.S. or Europe on building out its grid to meet its massive population’s growing energy needs — a fact that’s drawn other grid giants like General Electric, ABB and Siemens into the country as well. IBM has already said that it expects to generate $400 million in smart grid revenues in China over the next four years. What’s it planning to do to earn the money?

On Thursday, IBM drew back the curtain a bit on its Energy & Utilities Solutions Lab, including details of various pilot projects underway with China’s massive government-owned utility, State Grid Corporation of China and other partners. Those projects range from managing the flow of power from nuclear plants and massive wind farms to transmission and distribution grids — similar to the work IBM does for utilities in the U.S. and in Europe — to some smart grid realms where IBM has made less of a splash, such as managing energy efficiency down at the consumer level, including electric vehicles.

“We’ve expanded from smart grid, to look at the energy value chain, from the supply source all the way down to the consumer source,” is how Bradley Gammons, IBM’s vice president of energy and utilities sales and distribution, put it to us in a phone interview from Beijing. In particular Gammons said that IBM has been looking more closely at the consumer and the role the consumer will play as a dispatchable demand response resource as they adopt electric vehicles. China is expected to see half the world’s installations of electric vehicle chargers over the coming years, according to Pike Research.

Smart grid industry watchers will no doubt be keeping an eye on which Chinese smart grid companies IBM chooses to partners with. The Chinese government requires that its wind power projects have at least 70 percent made-in-China components, and observers have noted that State Grid and other massive government-owned utilities will be making similar pushes to help domestic companies get a piece of the smart grid pie.

Gammons noted that State Grid has already announced technology standards for manufacturers who want to build some of the 170 million smart meters it wants to deploy over the coming years. While U.S. smart meter makers including Itron and Echelon are eying that market, major Chinese meter makers such as Jiangsu Linyang Electronics, Ningbo Sanxing Technology and Wasion Group will no doubt be contenders as well.

On the other hand, some industry observers have noted that giants like IBM, GE, Siemens, Cisco and Hewlett Packard may have a leg up on the Chinese competition when it comes to cutting-edge smart grid technologies — particularly in the “system of systems” integration projects that IBM specializes in.

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