Monday, August 10, 2009

Smart Grid Today features Andres Carvallo

Austin Energy CIO sees back office as key to success

Carvallo shares vision, gaps with clean energy folks

Austin Energy CIO Andres Carvallo expects a little chaos in the utility's efforts to organize the new business opportunities unfolding between the smart meter and the consumer (SGT, Aug-06), "I'm going from a world I control -- beautifully -- to a world that is, 'Oh my God!" he said, laughing, to about 45 people gathered Wednesday night at a meeting of the Austin Clean Energy Group in the capital city of Texas.

Carvallo was speaking about "building the smart grid" and specifically on aspects that have yet to be figured out. "What will it look like? How do we charge for it? How do we provide the service?" Back-office integration is the key to successfully orchestrate all the pieces of the smart grid, Carvallo urged.

The question of privacy was raised more often than any other topic during the 45 minute discussion following Carvallo's presentation. He was asked whether the utility knowing what devices people are plugging in creates a privacy issue and who is in charge of that? "Some in the industry have said the utility needs to have control over all that," Carvallo answered. "Southern Cal Edison tried to do a rollout in LA," and advocacy groups quashed it. "They said, 'No, no, no. You can't do this. We want to have choice."

Austin Energy plans to follow its own example as set in an opt-in programmable thermostat program. "Somehow, we'll figure out in the next six months how we will provide more information to you in your house. Do we do it ourselves? Do we partner with third parties? Do we go partner with Google and Microsoft for PowerMeter and Hohm? We're exploring what's possible."

"The customer must have the choice and must have control," he added. "The key thing to resolve this is, if you're going to be using your electric vehicle and solar rooftop and exporting energy back to my grid, somehow you and I need to have a handshake. How do you make that handshake happen? The answer has not been created yet," said Carvallo.

Is that metaphorical handshake really needed? Is it not enough to just tell the utility how much power you are using as opposed to itemizing what you're using in your house? Some consumers will demand granularity and that will require the handshake, Carvallo predicted. "Today, we've built the system to read the meters every 15 minutes -- which is 100 terabytes. You guys in this room are going to want that data every five minutes and I go from 100 terabytes to 400 terabytes. So I just quadrupled the cost of the data center, which goes back to your bill. "Now you want me to go from five minute to 1 minute. I quadruple again, which goes back to your bill. Then you say, 'you know, I really want to manage my entire house in real time -- every 2 seconds…. We're going to get there. People like service and convenience," Carvallo reminded.

This story has been reproduced from the August 7, 2009 issue of Smart Grid Today with the permission of the publisher, MMI Inc. To view the full story on Smart Grid Today's website, please visit

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