As part of the international EEBUS Initiative, reputable manufacturers have joined forces to develop a uniform communication standard for all household electrical devices so that, in the future, energy consumption can be coordinated in an environmentally friendly and cost-effective manner. We have spoken to Frank Blessing, who sits on the board of this initiative, about the successes and challenges as well as what drives him personally to get engaged with this issue.

 

EEBUS as an international, uniform communication standard.

EEBUS as an international, uniform communication standard.

The goal of the EEBUS initiative is to develop a uniform communication standard for energy. How important it is to get all the players around the same table? 

When it comes to introducing new communication standards, partners are essential because overarching content and working applications can only be defined if all the parties involved work together. A standard cannot work without this cooperation. The EEBUS initiative offers companies the possibility of networking and exchanging ideas. Particularly in the context of the networking of intelligent appliances – both producers and consumers – this is becoming increasingly important. Leading companies in the energy industry have recognized this and are using networking to develop new application scenarios. They understand how important it is to work together so that they can offer their customers interesting, cross-industry solutions.

What can you say about the current status?

Especially in the past two years, we have seen great progress and achieved a number of milestones as pioneers in solutions that connect electricity, heat and transport. The German Association of the Automotive Industry (VDA) has joined the EEBUS initiative and the first Plugfest for the integration of electric vehicles was a success. The leading manufacturers of heating systems, including Vaillant, Viessmann and Wolf Heiztechnik are also working intensively on implementing heating applications with the EEBUS standard and are already nearing production launches. Furthermore, together with SMA, BSH has created the first application for connecting household appliances (washing machines) and put it into production.

These examples show that EEBUS is no longer just a theory – it is now ready for the market. The short implementation periods for new applications are fantastic and the great cooperation between the companies involved in the EEBUS initiative is to thank for this.

What comes next? 

For 2017, the focus is on the integration of heating systems, such as heat pumps, in intelligent energy management. By the end of the year, it is expected that the first series production systems from various manufacturers will be able to communicate via EEBUS and be considered, for example, for the optimization of self-consumption. This will be followed by applications for the integration of electric vehicles in the utility grid. With regard to securing grid stability, the promotion of electric vehicles will involve great challenges, but it will also bring about opportunities and added value.

The SMA Sunny Home Manager 2.0 controls the energy flows of household generators and consumers.

The SMA Sunny Home Manager 2.0 controls the energy flows of household generators and consumers.

How is SMA contributing? 

As a founding member, SMA is a major driver of applications in the field of intelligent energy management in EEBUS and is involved in all the applications mentioned above with regard to energy management. With Sunny Home Manager 2.0 and the SMA Data Manager M, SMA has demonstrated that solutions for connecting the electricity, heat and transport sectors are already entering the market. The standardized integration of electric vehicles in energy management is a major success in the promotion and acceptance of e-mobility and a decisive step toward an all-electric society.

Which application are you personally most excited about?

Personally, I find the thought very exciting of, in the future, being able to use the energy from my electric car bidirectionally, to open up a whole host of new applications. Surplus energy from the utility grid can then, for example, be buffered in mobile storage systems and short-term energy demand can be covered by precisely these storage systems. Strictly speaking, we will not just be talking about individual applications in the future. With the trend toward an all-electric society, there is an increasing focus on interconnecting all generators and consumers, giving rise to an entire ecosystem.

Many thanks for this interview, Frank.

Profile

Frank Blessing is Senior Business Development Manager Energy Services at SMA. Since May 2017, he has been a member of the managemnt board of the EEBUS initiative.

5.00 avg. rating (98% score) - 3 votes

Recently Willem Westerhof published a study on cybersecurity threads regarding PV inverters, in which SMA was mentioned. Unfortunately, the claim has caused serious concern for our customers. We would like to stress that SMA does not agree with this article, as some of his statements are not correct or greatly exaggerated.

Please be assured that the security of our devices has highest priority for SMA in all respects and that we do everything we can to protect our inverters and communication products against cyber-attacks. We already assessed the mentioned issues on a technical basis and work intensively on the correction. The stated potential security issues only affect older SMA products and only a very few products in our portfolio.

Here are some key facts:

  • From our extensive product portfolio, only the following SMA inverter types are affected: Sunny Boy models TLST-21 and TL-21, Sunny Tripower models TL-10 and TL-30.
  • All other products comply with the latest security standards.
  • We want to stress that even with the inverters mentioned above, the assault vectors require extremely high efforts and extensive expertise by a potential hacker.
  • Even the devices mentioned above are properly protected from hacker attacks, if the users carefully adhere to the measures outlined in our public cyber security guidelines.
  • Any device not connected to the internet is not directly affected.
  • There also is no such thing as a “secret super password” for all SMA inverters as Westerhoff states. Our inverters are delivered to our customers with a default password and we actively ask our customers to change this password to a personal secure password immediately after installation.
  • Regarding possible effects on the public power supply, Willem mentions 17 GW of solar inverter power sold to the private market by SMA. This is the whole inverter power SMA has sold so far to the residential market. The power produced with the inverters that might be vulnerable to an attack is only a small fraction of this, and they are installed all over the world. So we see absolutely no danger to grid stability even in the extremely unlikely event that all inverters should be successfully attacked at the same time.

As mentioned before, cybersecurity is an extremely  important topic for SMA. We are continually working on implementing the highest security standards and measures with our devices in order to make them invulnerable to attacks. In this respect, we also continually ask our customers, to read and adhere to our public cyber security guidelines in order to prevent possible attacks.

Please find further technically detailed responses to Westerhof’s claims on our company website.

For any further questions please use the comment section. 

5.00 avg. rating (96% score) - 1 vote

A recent article in the Guardian argues that fossil fuels receive about $5 trillion per year globally of unseen benefits, representing some 6.5% of global GDP. The journalist concludes that this must point to a dim future for this energy source. The discussion stems from a paper that has been recently published in the journal, World Development, but is originally a piece of work by two analysts who work for the IMF that surfaced prior to COP21 in 2015. The same authors are involved with the current article.

The new version of the paper classifies these benefits into two types,

  • ‘‘pre-tax subsidies”— these arise when consumer prices paid by fuel users are below the opportunity costs of fuel supply (e.g., many oil producers in the Middle East and North Africa traditionally set domestic prices below international prices). This is the definition that leaders had in mind at the 2009 G20 Pittsburg meeting when they called for a phase out of energy subsidies (IEA, OPEC, OECD, & World Bank, 2010).
  • ‘‘post-tax subsidies”— these arise when consumer prices are below the cost of supply when a ‘‘Pigouvian” charge (1) is included to reflect environmental damages. Economic efficiency requires that the prices of goods and services reflect not only supply costs but also (i) (most importantly) environmental costs like global warming and deaths from air pollution and (ii) taxes applied to consumer goods in general.

A visit to the IEA website on energy subsidies shows that the value of pre-tax consumer price subsidy worldwide totaled $493 billion in 2013, falling to $322 billion by 2015 as oil prices fell globally. This is equivalent to ~$25 per tonne of oil equivalent, or $3.50 per barrel. By comparison, these amounted to $390 billion in 2009 (in 2014 dollars), the year the G20 and APEC commitments were made. The value of these estimates has fluctuated from year-to-year in line with reform efforts, the consumption level of the fuels in question, international prices for fossil fuels, exchange rates and general price inflation. IEA decomposition analysis reveals that, while movements in world prices typically have the greatest impact from year-to-year, policy interventions have played an important role as well. These subsidized prices are primarily focused on oil and electricity and in many cases, are a mechanism for distribution of benefits to very low income segments of the national population. For example, India subsidized oil, electricity and natural gas in 2015 for its consumers for an amount of nearly $20 billion, but is not a recognized oil producer.

However, the focus of the Guardian article is the lack of charges for externalities in relation to fossil fuel use. By applying a series of Pigouvian charges to fossil fuels, covering issues such as carbon dioxide emissions and air pollution, they argue that fuels are under-priced by some $5 trillion per annum. The additions made also cover issues related to fossil fuel use, but not directly caused by them. An example is road traffic congestion and safety which the article specifically mentions. These would also be externalities in a transport system powered by electricity. In total, these missing post-tax charges for coal amount to $2.5 trillion, oil is $1.5 trillion and natural gas about $400 billion. Pre-tax price subsidies for coal hardly exist, amounting to just over $1 billion per annum globally per the IEA.

Applying this methodology to fossil fuels also opens the debate for other goods and services. For example, many governments offer direct help to farmers and subsidise food prices. The production of rice and beef contributes some 6 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent to the atmosphere in the form of methane, which alone amounts to an externailty of $250 billion per annum or roughly $1.30 per kilo in the case of beef (vs. a US average ground beef price of $7 per kilo).

A robust and comprehensive application of Pigouvian pricing across the economy incorporating all externalities would likely touch every single product or service in use today, excluding any energy penalty related to fossil fuels. Environmental damage and health issues remain widespread in the world, despite great efforts to address them at every level of society. Many are simply a function of the vast scale on which manufacturing operates, which in turn results in some environmental degradation. In March 2014, the Guardian reported on the social and environmental costs associated with the production of rare earth metals, which have become critical in the manufacture of a multitude of electronic products today, including renewable energy systems. The article raised questions on cancer rates, which in turn links human mortality costs with these products.

In the case of fossil fuels, the simplest and most effective way of confronting this issue is to introduce a carbon price, ideally at a level that reflects the social costs of use. The World Development article uses a figure of around $40 per tonne of carbon dioxide. While this wouldn’t address every aspect of fossil fuel use, it would nevertheless go a long way towards addressing the concerns of the authors.

(1)  This refers to the work of Arthur Cecil Pigou, a University of Cambridge economist who published The Economics of Welfare in 1920. In this book, Pigou introduced the concept of externality and the idea that external problems could be corrected by the imposition of a charge. By ‘externality,’ Pigou meant an indirect economic impact of an activity that happened outside the immediate system where the activity was underway. The externality concept remains central to modern welfare economics and is at the heart of environmental economics. In the case of climate change, the externality is the release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and the future social and economic impact caused by the consequent increase in the surface temperature of the planet. Externalities can be both positive and negative, but in the case of carbon dioxide emissions, it is considered negative. Pigou argued that the activities associated with a negative externality should be penalized to the extent of the impact, such that their real economic value can be assessed. This penalty is widely known as a Pigouvian Tax. Alcohol taxes are Pigouvian; so are taxes on cigarettes.

Recently Willem Westerhof published a study on cybersecurity threads regarding PV inverters, in which SMA was mentioned. Unfortunately, the claim has caused serious concern for our customers. We would like to stress that SMA does not agree with this article, as some of his statements are not correct or greatly exaggerated.

Please be assured that the security of our devices has highest priority for SMA in all respects and that we do everything we can to protect our inverters and communication products against cyber-attacks. We already assessed the mentioned issues on a technical basis and work intensively on the correction. The stated potential security issues only affect older SMA products and only a very few products in our portfolio.

Here are some key facts:

  • From our extensive product portfolio, only the following SMA inverter types are affected: Sunny Boy models TLST-21 and TL-21, Sunny Tripower models TL-10 and TL-30.
  • All other products comply with the latest security standards.
  • We want to stress that even with the inverters mentioned above, the assault vectors require extremely high efforts and extensive expertise by a potential hacker.
  • Even the devices mentioned above are properly protected from hacker attacks, if the users carefully adhere to the measures outlined in our public cyber security guidelines.
  • Any device not connected to the internet is not affected. This also applies to devices connected to a router with a firewall, which is the case for almost all residential installations.
  • There also is no such thing as a “secret super password” for all SMA inverters as Westerhoff states. Our inverters are delivered to our customers with a default password and we actively ask our customers to change this password to a personal secure password immediately after installation.
  • Regarding possible effects on the public power supply, Willem mentions 17 GW of solar inverter power sold to the private market by SMA. This is the whole inverter power SMA has sold so far to the residential market. The power produced with the inverters that might be vulnerable to an attack is only a small fraction of this, and they are installed all over the world. So we see absolutely no danger to grid stability even in the extremely unlikely event that all inverters should be successfully attacked at the same time.

As mentioned before, cybersecurity is an extremely  important topic for SMA. We are continually working on implementing the highest security standards and measures with our devices in order to make them invulnerable to attacks. In this respect, we also continually ask our customers, to read and adhere to our public cyber security guidelines in order to prevent possible attacks.

We will publish further technically detailed responses to Westerhof’s claims on our company website within the next couple of days. We are also working on an official report on the security of our devices with the Dutch National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) as a neutral national authority.

For any further questions please use the comment section. 

0.00 avg. rating (0% score) - 0 votes

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