Founding members include C3, MIT, Honeywell, PG&E

The Siebel Energy Institute awarded 24 smart grid research grants totaling $1 million as part of its official launch, the institute told the press this week. Grant recipients received $25,000 or $50,000 to study how algorithms and machine learning can drive better responses to outages and cybersecurity attacks, the institute said.

Researchers will consider managing loads with high levels of EV charging and renewable energy sources and projects will include research on how data analytics can improve utility customer engagement and grid reliability.

Results from all of the research the institute does will be freely available to the public, Siebel Energy Institute said.

The institute is a consortium between Carnegie Mellon University, École Polytechnique (Palaiseau, France), Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Politecnico di Torino (Turin, Italy), Princeton University, University of California at Berkeley (UC Berkeley), University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the University of Tokyo, it added. The institute will have support from an advisory board that includes smart grid data analytics firm C3 Energy, Honeywell and Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), it added.

The Thomas & Stacey Siebel Foundation established the institute with a $10 million grant, the institute said. The Siebel Foundation was set up in 1996 in California by Thomas Siebel, the founder of Siebel Systems, a software firm that designed customer service applications and that was sold to Oracle in 2005, according to the Foundation Center, a philanthropy information service. Stacey is Thomas’ wife.

Mr Siebel is Chairman of First Virtual Group, a diversified holding company, Foundation Center said.

Grantees will use the money and their research to develop larger research proposals as part of a model the institute hopes will attract $100-200 million in funded research over the next five years.

“We created the Siebel Energy Institute to stimulate the best minds in engineering and computer science to work collaboratively on the science of smart energy,” Mr Siebel, chairman of the institute, said in prepared remarks. “Our goal is to advance innovations in data analytics and machine learning to improve the safety, cybersecurity, reliability, efficiency and environmental integrity of the advanced smart grid.”

Recipients of $50,000 grants included:

• MIT, where researchers will explore using analytics-based models to predict equipment failure and security breaches in distributed energy resources;

• UC Berkeley, where a team will research how EV charging affects the distribution grid at current points, and how EVs as a mobile source of energy storage affect the grid, and

• Another team at UC Berkeley that will study how modeling and controls can create a new approach to direct DR programs in areas where intermittent power sources, such as renewables, pose risks for DR customers, the institute said.

The $25,000 grants went to:

• The University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, where a research team will study data analysis and statistical methods to detect power theft using AMI data;

• Princeton, where a team will research using building control systems with a network that optimizes HVAC power use, and

• UC Berkeley, where a team will develop metrics for forecasting reliability and outages on the grid, it added.