Europe and USA racing for the lead in smart grid technology

China and the EU/Germany to work closer together ? DKE wants to harmonize standards in this sector

China - one of the world's largest consumers of energy - has big plans for the future: It wants to drastically reduce its CO2 emissions by up to 40 % by 2020. The Chinese government is therefore increasing its support of the development of renewable energies and the smart grid. An extensive grid is to be completed in a series of three stages by 2020, putting China at the head of this sector. This was announced by Baoquan Shi, Vice Administrator of the Standardization Administration of the People's Republic of China (SAC) during  the first Sino-EU Smart Grid Technology and Standardization Forum held in Bejing at the end of May 2010. The aim of the Forum was to promote cooperation between the EU/Germany and China and to harmonize standards in the smart grid sector. Attended by around 400 participants from China and Europe, the Forum was organized by EuropeElectro, the DKE German Commission for Electrical, Electronic & Information Technologies of DIN and VDE, and the German Electrical and Electronic Manufacturers' Association (ZVEI), among others, with the support of the SAC.

Although smart grid technology has been new territory for China up until now, this export nation now needs a reliably functioning electricity grid. With its ambitions of becoming one of the biggest energy producers in the world, the largest Asian country presents an enormous economic potential for German industry. "However, this is only so if we can come to agreement with China on the architecture and standardization of the smart grid early on", stressed Roland Bent, CEO of Marketing and Development at PHOENIX CONTACT. Taking aspects of standardization into account at an early stage of the research process and when implementing new technologies will give Germany a competitive advantage. "What we need are uniform international standards describing the exchange of information in grid automation, industrial automation and home automation", said Bernhard Thies, speaker for the DKE management.

Because smart grid technology is developing so rapidly, quick action is needed, for the Americans also view China as a future market and have already taking the first steps towards joint efforts in standardization. "We are in competition with the USA in terms of smart grid standardization concepts and definitions. China thinks in terms of months, not years. It is therefore crucial that we quickly implement the results of German standards work", said DKE Managing Director Thies. To harmonize the ICT sector with the energy sector, all actors need to refer to existing standards. There are already numerous internationally accepted IEC standards concerning power supply, and industrial and building automation. Lin Xianyu, head of the smart grid department of the State Grid Corporation of China, explained that China would prefer to build upon already existing standards, and is reviewing NIST Standards (published by the US National Institute of Standards and Technology) as well as international IEC standards (published by the International Electrotechnical Commission) for adaptability. China places great value on cooperation with Europe, particularly with Germany.

Because varying regional standards constrain the global market, standards are as important as patents. Germany's leading position and the success of its technology products in global markets – particularly in the energy sector – are the results of an offensive standardization strategy. The international harmonization of standards is important for the European standards organizations, and especially the DKE in Germany. About 90 % of all electrotechnical European Standards have already been harmonized at international level, and the Europeans and Germany have a correspondingly great influence in the IEC. The Asian countries have also recognized the significance of standardization. China in particular is making an effort to gain influence in standards-setting, thus strengthening its innovative strength. In view of this, Thies is asking German companies to participate in European and international standardization to an even greater extent.