In 2013, global leader Siemens established a smart grid development centre in New Brunswick as part of a partnership with NB Power. Based on this foundation, Opportunities NB is working to make New Brunswick a hub for smart grid development by attracting startups and national and international firms to conduct their testing and development in this province.

Today, a pilot project supporting smart grid-related SMEs has launched in Fredericton. This initiative is led by the Smart Grid Innovation Network, which includes Siemens, NB Power, and the University of New Brunswick. The project will receive both provincial and federal funding via ONB and ACOA respectively.

Timed with this announcement, we present a guest post from Peter Corbyn, Founder of the New Brunswick Smart Grid Consortium.

A colleague recently asked me to define the smart grid. My quick response was “how do you define the Internet?” I realize this was not the answer he was looking for, but it is not too far off.

The Internet began as a network of computers for government and academic use in the 1960s. The people and organizations that created its foundation 50 years ago would not recognize it today. They could not have predicted the incredible growth of its use and functions.

Companies like Amazon, Facebook, and Google have transformed society and the economy in ways unimaginable less than 20 years ago. We now post content to the Web from smartphones, listen to virtually every song recorded via voice command, and access any book ever written within a couple of finger taps. New Brunswick-based companies like Radian6 and Q1 Labs (acquired by Salesforce and IBM respectively) have played a successful part in that journey.

The Internet began by connecting a few large and very expensive computers. Today, an inexpensive smartphone can participate. The energy grid is no different. Decades ago, the North American grid consisted of large nuclear, fossil fuel and hydro generating stations the same size or larger than New Brunswick’s Point Lepreau, Coleson Cove and Mactaquac, all owned and operated by a few very large utilities.

Today, millions of small players around the world, including individual homeowners and co-ops can generate renewable energy, and either consume it themselves or sell it to the grid. Companies like Cisco and IBM build the backbone of the Internet, and companies like Siemens and NB Power build the backbone of the smart grid.

Small tech startups like Google and Facebook have grown to become the players in the field on the Internet. The same thing will happen with the smart grid. New Brunswick is the hub for cybersecurity and smart grid innovation in Canada. This is thanks in part to the launch of organizations like CyberNBthe Smart Grid Innovation Network, and Energia Ventures. With all these assets in place, New Brunswick has a solid foundation to help grow the Radian6s and Q1 Labs of the smart grid sector. That growth is starting now with Fredericton-based companies like SimpTek TechnologiesStash Energy, and Trispectra Innovation.

  • SimpTek combines their propriety energy monitoring software and virtual energy manager platform with hardware to help commercial building owners easily identify and implement energy savings and associated greenhouse gas emissions with minimal capital costs.
  • Stash Energy develops a cost-effective energy storage system that can help homeowners and utilities reduce peak demand and utilize more renewable energy.
  • Trispectra uses sensors to detect faults in power lines. Trispectra’s data helps utilities speed up power restoration when responding to outages, and reduce power line maintenance costs over time.

The smart grid must be secure and resilient, and embrace energy efficiency and renewables such as solar, biomass, and wind. New Brunswick is well positioned for a major role in the smart grid. Local companies with great growth potential are paving that path in the $500 billion+ North America energy industry.

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

Written by Peter Corbyn