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Smart Grid Innovation Network Welcomes the Coming Energy Revolution

In 2012, Siemens Canada partnered with NB Power to develop a comprehensive smart grid vision for the province of New Brunswick. The following year it invested in smart grid research projects at the University of New Brunswick (UNB). In 2016, the three organizations combined their efforts to create the Smart Grid Innovation Network (SGIN), solidifying New Brunswick as a hub of smart grid-related innovation.

Sonya Hull is a Consultant with Siemens’ Energy Business Advisory Group working on NB Power’s Smart Grid program. She has been heavily involved in the organization of the SGIN’s first major conference, the Energy Innovations Forum happening April 4th and 5th in Fredericton. [Register Here]

ONB spoke to Sonya to learn more about the SGIN and what to expect at the upcoming event.

ONB: Can you first break down SGIN’s three main components?

Hull: We realized New Brunswick was well-positioned to lead in this space given the existing partnership between Siemens Canada and NB Power. That only became clearer once we factored in UNB, one of the country’s top engineering schools.

The goal of SGIN is to provide an environment in which vendors can get their products and services over technical hurdles by leveraging all three SGIN partners. At the early stage, you have UNB’s Smart Grid Research Lab, the smart grid R&D component. If a vendor still needs to perfect the concept or prototype, develop algorithm or conduct simulations, UNB can help. The engineering faculty’s Technology Management & Entrepreneurship (TME) Program is involved here as well, so they can even help with your business model and market intelligence.

Next, we have the Siemens Interoperability Lab. That’s where we essentially make your ‘thing’ communicate with other ‘things’ in the smart and connected energy space. We make sure everything is communicating properly within a highly configurable sandbox environment.

Finally, we want to be able to test your product or service to see how it works with an actual electrical grid. Does it work? Is it safe? Will customers see real value? That is where NB Power comes in via their Products and Services Lab. This is where your solution gets real-world validation from an actual utility.

Vendors can enter the SGIN at any stage of course; they can even begin with the utility lab if they’re mature enough for the validation stage.

ONB: What can people expect from the first Energy Innovations Forum?

Hull: One of the SGIN’s objectives is to provide opportunities for broad-based learning about smart grid and all of its related elements, such as renewable energy. The Forum is targeted to smart grid/smart energy-related vendors, utilities, municipalities, engineering firms, ICT companies, government policymakers, and researchers. We feel SGIN can be a great platform for engaging in public-facing discussions about this sector’s potential, and the innovations already taking place within it. The Energy Innovations Forum is our first foray into this type of public engagement and we’re very excited about it.

The goal is to show this region what’s happening both here and internationally, why they should be interested in this space, and what evolving technologies and opportunities are already out there in the smart and sustainable energy space. They’ll hear from international speakers as well as our many local experts.

Attendees are going to be presented some very interesting topics. Day one is about evolving technologies. We’re talking about energy storage, renewables, smart homes and buildings, connected vehicles, etc. Day two will focus on the many opportunities in this space. What can we do based on all these new technologies? We will look at global market opportunities, developments in the smart energy community space, and what the evolving energy customer looks like.

[See the full agenda]

ONB: Can you comment on the support the SGIN has had from government?

Hull: We have had great support and participation from both ONB and ACOA. The province has established smart grid as one of its growth pillars, officially recognizing it in the 2016 Economic Growth Plan. The SGIN is a real feather in this province’s cap because there is nothing like it anywhere else in the world. It’s encouraging that both ONB and ACOA know we have a centre of excellence building here. That kind of public sector support is crucial as we move forward and establish New Brunswick as the place for smart grid-related innovation.

This sector is moving fast and we all want to see this region lead the way in this fast-paced energy revolution.  We really want to plant the province’s flag in the smart grid space.

Register for the SGIN Energy Innovation Forum here.

Learn more about how New Brunswick is leading the way in smart grid by downloading ONB’s free white paper.