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Combining experience and expertise in the fields of electricity and ICT, Tatung aggressively engages in development of the smart grid
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Tuesday 6 May 2014

Over the past 60 years and throughout the establishment of Taiwan's electrical infrastructure, Tatung has helped Taiwan Power Company (TPC) build power plants and substations. Tatung has also provided infrastructural facilities including generators, transformers, switchgears, as well as electrical wires and cables. Looking forward, Tatung will continue to closely participate in the upgrading of Taiwan's electrical infrastructure as well as in the development of the smart grid.

Which engineering achievement had the greatest impact on civilization in the 20th century? According to the assessment of U.S. National Academy of Engineering (NAE), electrical infrastructure tops the list, winning over the personal computers, mobile phones, and the Internet for one important reason: without electricity, none of these popular candidates would have existed.

Entering the 21st century, electrical infrastructure is still critically important. However, traditional electrical grid architectures can no longer satisfy new developmental requirements, such as the requirements of incorporating more and more renewable energy, as well as energy conservation and carbon reduction. This is why the electrical grid is in such dire need of upgrading and transformation. Integrating ICT technologies will make the electrical grids intelligent, which is why smart grids are the popular trends of the future.

According to Tatung Smart Grid BU Senior General Manager, Chang-Ping Lin, in order to realize the smart grid, we must not only rely on traditional electrical infrastructure technologies, such as those enabling power generation, power transmission, power transformation, power distribution, and power consumption, but also integrate ICT technologies as well as experience in large-scale IT software integration. Tatung is one of the few companies in Taiwan that possess these capabilities, and has pioneered in the research and development of smart meters as well as advanced AMI metering systems. Tatung believes that it has an important role to play in the establishment of the smart grid.

Therefore, Tatung not only plays the role of system integrator, which is the one role that is most lacking in Taiwan, forming strategic partnerships, integrating technologies (such as networking and telecommunications modules, data collectors, and industrial computers), and developing both domestic and international smart grid business opportunities; it also works with Tatung University to foster tomorrow's talented smart grid workers.

The most important aspect of smart grid development is systems integration capabilities

Chang-Ping Lin believes that the greatest advantage of Taiwan's vendors in terms of smart grid development is their strong ICT components manufacturing industry. However, it is not without its disadvantages, such as its lack of actual experience in system integration and system depolyment. In order to make up for this specific disadvantage, the government has been promoting the Penghu Smart Grid Demonstration Site through the Second-Phase National Energy Program; however, due to concerns over stable power supply, its range of application as well as verification items are limited and may not be able to achieve strong results. He recommends that the government consider using the NEDO model in establishing an overseas demonstration site.

Taking the above advantages and disadvantages into consideration, what opportunities and challenges will Taiwan's vendors face in the future smart grid industry? In terms of opportunities, for ICT vendors, since they are not restricted in terms of regional electricity infrastructure restrictions, opportunities are plentiful; for electrical power vendors, although they are restricted by regional protectionism, there is still opportunity. In terms of emerging regions, such as ASEAN countries, the Middle East, North Africa, and Eastern Europe, Taiwan's vendors may be able to export full, flexible, customized systems. In terms of more advanced markets, such as Europe, the United States, and Japan, although chances of exporting entire systems are small, there may still be potential profits in key components, such as smart meters, etc.

In terms of challenges, Chang-Ping Lin points out that Taiwan's vendors need to quickly establish system integration capabilities as well as system software and data analysis capabilities. Smart grid architectures are extremely complex. In addition to real-time monitoring of circuits, transformers, and switches in the electrical power system, additional technologies such as software, communications, and sensors also need to be incorporated. Furthermore, data needs to be analyzed in order to conduct intelligent scheduling and control, which further shows that the above-stated capabilities are all indispensable. And taking into consideration that the life cycle of electrical equipment must be at least 8-10 years, and error tolerance ranges are extremely small, the only way to gain the trust of global customers is to obtain stringent international certifications.

In addition, the smart grid business is a long-term investment. Looking at related projects implemented by the Taiwan government as well as the governments of other countries, it can be clearly seen that they are planning for the long term and that returns will not be obtained overnight. Therefore, vendors wishing to enter this market should be prepared for long-term investments and should not enter with a short-term speculation mentality.

Working with partners to gain domestic and foreign business opportunities

It is not hard to see that Taiwan's development of smart grid technologies will bring many benefits. Firstly, the Taiwan Power Company already began in-depth research of the smart grid many years ago, and has clearly identified its advantages and disadvantages compared to traditional centralized electrical grids and south-to-north electricity transmission architectures. It has therefore set four primary goals, which are to establish a safe and reliable electrical grid, enhance electrical power efficiency, optimize customer service quality, and integrate distributed generations (DG).

In terms of government efforts, in August of 2012, the Smart Grid Master Program was introduced, with the primary goals of conserving energy, reducing carbon emissions, boosting the amount of renewable energies, and reforming the power industry. However, at the same time, the government must also maintain stable power supply, which is a seemingly contradicting goal; only through smart-grid real-time monitoring and scheduling will we be able to achieve the goal of peak suppression, as well as integrate energy storage and control technologies, allowing renewable energy grids to merge to solve the issue of regional congestion, thereby enhancing the efficiency and quality of the power supply, producing innovative value-added services, facilitating the positive reform of the electrical power industry, and finally achieving an optimal balance.

In light of this, Tatung will continue to play a pivotal role in Taiwan's electrical power infrastructure, integrating corporate resources, taking up the difficult responsibility of system integration, working hand-in-hand with partners to participate in the establishment of Taiwan's smart grid as well as development of the global market.

Tatung Smart Grid BU Senior General Manager, Chang-Ping Lin, stresses the company has an important role to play in the development of smart grids

Tatung Smart Grid BU Senior General Manager, Chang-Ping Lin, stresses the company has an important role to play in the development of smart grids

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