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Smart Grid Innovation Network Presents: Smart Energy Communities

The Province of New Brunswick has laid a foundation for leadership in the smart grid space with the founding of the Smart Grid Innovation Network (SGIN) in early 2016. The SGIN, a collaboration between Siemens Canada, NB Power, and the University of New Brunswick (UNB), presents its first Energy Innovations Forum on April 4th and 5th in Fredericton.

The event will feature a tremendous roster of speakers including Peter Corbyn, Founder of the New Brunswick Smart Grid Consortium.

Corbyn, a long-time advocate of leveraging technology to conserve energy and improve the environment, will moderate a session at the forum. ONB caught up with Peter to learn more about his Smart Energy Communities session, and more.

ONB: Why take part in the Energy Innovations Forum?

New Brunswick Smart Grid Consortium Corbyn: It’s a fantastic opportunity for attendees to learn more about smart grid and its associated technologies. Some still think of the smart grid as technology in the home, like the smart thermostat you get at Best Buy. The smart grid is much more than that; it addresses all the energy sources that feed a utility’s grid, as well as electric transportation and energy storage. There are a number of opportunities for New Brunswick companies in this space, and great work being done by NB Power and Siemens Canada, as well as UNB from an R&D perspective. This is the first major opportunity for the SGIN to share their early progress and showcase the potential of smart grid for municipalities and utilities.

ONB: What can you tell us about the session you’re moderating — Smart Energy Communities?

Corbyn: There is a lot of interest from the municipal sector with respect to becoming smart communities. This includes smart energy, smart transportation, and smart infrastructure.

The session I’m moderating includes Chris Norris, a Smart Grid Management Consultant with Siemens Canada, and Brent Gilmour, Executive Director of QUEST Canada. We will focus on helping communities identify the many ways they can become a smart community and why they should. The benefits of becoming a smart community include the potential to lower energy costs, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, optimize land use, and improve the overall quality of life for citizens.

It’s about educating people on exactly what smart grid means; it’s not something where you just throw a switch. Becoming a smart energy community is really a journey. Just as we as people and businesses have been on a journey with the internet over the past twenty plus years, cities will go on a similar journey towards becoming smart energy communities.

Twenty years ago the internet was pretty basic; we could email and peruse fairly rudimentary websites. Today it’s taken over our lives; we bank online, book vacations via AirBnB, shake up transportation with things like Uber, use social media, etc. Who could have predicted how large something like Amazon or Facebook would become?

Smart communities will go on that same journey, where several disruptive technologies will help improve their citizens’ lives and address various economic, social, and environmental challenges they face.

ONB: With the SGIN established and the province making smart grid a priority, how confident are you in New Brunswick’s potential to lead in that sector?

Corbyn: Very confident. You start with the SGIN, which is a fantastic organization that will help accelerate the growth of businesses in that sector. New Brunswick has the infrastructure in place to support tech startups in that space. Take Opportunities NB’s CyberNB initiative. The Internet of Things (IoT) and smart grid technology all require a substantial amount of cybersecurity in order to be safe and effective. CyberNB will play a major role there.

SGIN will help businesses through the R&D process via the involvement of UNB and Siemens Canada. Then NB Power is there to provide that utility validation.

The thing I’d like to focus on now is moving forward with this consortium; the packaging of smart grid-focused businesses in New Brunswick. We have great companies like RtTech, Trispectra Innovation, and SimpTek here. When we raise awareness of these solutions in markets outside the province, we can package them as part of an ecosystem. I believe that could help open doors for them and other new startups pretty quickly.

Register for the SGIN Energy Innovations Forum here.

Learn more about New Brunswick’s Smart Grid Innovation Network (SGIN) by downloading ONB’s free white paper.