SDG&E’s Chris Chen talks about intellectual capital, smart grid metrics, and the Utilities of Tomorrow competition

At the recent SAP for Utilities event in Huntington Beach SDG&E‘s Manager of Intellectual Capital, Chris Chen, gave a talk on the Smart Grid Metrics being asked for by the California Public Utilities Commission.

I caught up with Chris after his talk and chatted to him about his role as Manager of Intellectual Capital for SDG&E, his talk about Smart Grid Metrics, and the Utilities of Tomorrow competition.

See below for the transcription of our conversation.

Tom Raftery: Hey everyone! Welcome to GreenMonk TV, we are at the SAP for Utilities event in Huntington Beach. With me I have —

Chris Chen: Chris Chen.

Tom Raftery: Chris you are with —

Chris Chen: San Diego Gas & Electric.

Tom Raftery: Excellent! And what do you do for San Diego Gas & Electric?

Chris Chen: I am their Manager of Intellectual Capital. So I look for innovative ideas and solutions that we have developed that can be commercialized and benefit utilities around the world.

Tom Raftery: Excellent. So have you any interesting intellectual items that you have come across that you can talk about?

Chris Chen: We have come up with a number of things, some related to electric vehicles, we have done some stuff with a thing called smart transformer which is a way to allow distributed load management at the street transformer level. We are working with a company on some micro clearing transactions for smart grid data. Now with the explosion of smart grid data, we could be settling billions of transactions every month versus a million now so we are working with a company to develop solutions to that.

Tom Raftery: Interesting! And I haven’t come across many utility companies before you have an intellectual property arm, is this unusual?

Chris Chen: Well, it’s relatively new. I think that one of things that’s driving us, we have been really the smartest utility for three years in a row and we began to realize that a lot of the problems we are running into because we are an early adapter of smart grid and a lot of solutions we are coming up with could benefit a lot more people than just our utility, so we wanted to help with that.

Tom Raftery: Okay. And you gave a talk this morning on smart grid metrics, what was that about?

Chris Chen: The California Public Utilities commission came up with a list of 19 metrics to help SDGE and the other utilities in California, measure their success at this smart grid roll outs. Now we are putting a lot of money in the smart grid, we want to — they want to make sure that our customers and ratepayers are getting a value for the money they are putting the smart grid, so there are a set of metrics they have developed to help us look at and make sure that we are in fact delivering an effective smart grid.

Tom Raftery: Okay, and what kind of metrics are they?

Chris Chen: They revolved around things like outages, things like that some of the standard utility definitions, how long are some of these outages you have, that’s related to things like the advance metering infrastructure we have rolled out, does that meaning protection go well, did customers like it and were there hardware issues or network issues with it?

Also we did more advanced things like customer engagement, part of the smart grid is meant to engage customers in managing the grid and so they had some metrics around that, had metrics around electric vehicles and a number of electric vehicles being put into our system, also metrics around distributed generation another critical issue of smart grid and the smart grid will help us integrate renewables and be good for our customers, good for their environment, all the benefit of that.

Tom Raftery: Okay and you have mentioned as well, that there is kind of tendency now to move from the idea of asking the question of what happened to what’s happening?

Chris Chen: Yes, we call that predictive analytics. It used to be what happened, now we need — because we have so much more real time data available, now our internal operations are asking what’s happening now, but I think the next stage is going to be so and what’s going to happen, so that data that’s coming from all the smart grid, sensors and systems that we have out there, is going to help us look at things like renewable generation, yeah renewable generations is very intermittent, cloud cover comes over, all your solar goes away for a little while, we’d love to be able to predict that. So we can manage our system more effectively, customer loads, we’d like to predict what customer loads will be so we can combine that with things like understanding solar generation and really manage our system most efficiently.

Tom Raftery: Fantastic! And you are talking later on this afternoon about the utilities of tomorrow contest, can you tell us about that?

Chris Chen: Yes, so SAP in conjunction with several utilities and universities is sponsoring the Utilities Of Tomorrow contest, where we are going to invite students, teams of students from universities all over the world, actually any student can submit a proposal to come up with an innovative ideas related to the energy industry and not just energy, actually it’s any utilities so it could be water or waste management also and then we are going to have a group of experts asses those ideas pick the best ones and bring team of students out to work with experts in Silicon Valley on an expense paid trip to help develop their idea.

Tom Raftery:
And is it a global competition?

Chris Chen: Yes it is.

Tom Raftery: Excellent, Fantastic. Chris that’s been great, thanks for talking to us.

Chris Chen: My pleasure Tom.

SDG&E’s Chris Chen talks about intellectual capital, smart grid metrics, and the Utilities of Tomorrow competition