Sustainable Business News (SBIZ)
c/o Squall Inc.
P.O. Box 1484, Stn. B
Ottawa, Ontario, K1P 5P6
Canada: 1-855-569-6300

Schneider Electric's Smart Grid Lab anticipates innovation and sustainability

Toronto-based Elocity Technologies used the lab to help develop its products.

IMAGE: Elocity CEO Sanjeev Singh at the TMU Smart Grid Lab
Pratap Revuru, senior director of microgrid solutions and strategic partnerships at Schneider Electric, shows off part of the Smart Grid Lab. (Photo by Nicholas Sokic)

The Schneider Electric Smart Grid Lab at the Toronto Metropolitan University’s (TMU) Centre for Urban Energy stands as an example of the public-private partnerships needed to anticipate sustainability, innovation and to train the incoming workforce.

At a recent tour of the lab, Sanjeev Singh, founder and CEO of Toronto-based electric vehicle (EV) smart charging provider Elocity Technologies Inc., discussed how he got his company off the ground with the aid of the lab.

Elocity’s HIEV software and charger is Open Charge Point Protocol-compliant and is hardware-agnostic, capable of integrating with utilities, multi-residential buildings, public parking and more.

“I'm a landed immigrant. So when I came here, Canada has (a) much better ecosystem for start-ups. And I spent 15 years in the utility space, so I was pretty much aware about the challenges, which are going to basically impede the growth of EV adoption. I was looking for an incubator, where I can get domain expertise and support to launch my start-up in Canada,” he told SustainableBiz.

“When we launched our company, we were looking for a lab setup to simulate the technology, because we were needing very valuable data to refine the design and bring a product which is much more reliable than what (the) market was having.”

The centre itself was created in 2010 as a place to foster academic-industrial partnerships, supported by $7 million from Toronto Hydro, Hydro One and the Ontario Power Authority (now part of the Independent Electricity System Operator).

Founded in 2018, Elocity now has additional offices in Dallas, Madrid, Dubai and three cities in India: Bangalore, Gurugram and Udaipur. Its product is available in eight countries, Singh said.

Schneider Electric has over 160,000 employees in over 100 countries – approximately 2,000 in Canada.

Schneider Electric Smart Grid Lab's capabilities

The Smart Grid Lab was created in 2015 with $1 million in funding as a partnership between TMU, Schneider Electric and the Ontario government.

The facility can physically and electrically represent a substation and feeders of any local distribution company or microgrid. Users are able to plug in renewables, smart loads, energy storage and more, as well as utilize the advanced metering infrastructure to study their interactions in real time.

“So when we were trying to launch our company, we thought that for a successful and sustainable EV adoption, you need to manage the way EVs are being charged,” Singh said.

Its electricity supply is provided directly from Toronto Hydro, although it is capable of generating its own energy via a flexibility distribution system.

Elocity used the lab to demonstrate the adaptability of its HIEV charger. Singh was able to simulate a 120-volt charging event.

He sees this sort of public-private collaboration as essential to making the EV revolution a successful one.

“It needs an ecosystem approach. Now everything is being digitalized. Why? Because if it is digital, you can make it smart, you can optimize it,” he said.

“So the core theme is how we can connect different stakeholders in this space and (acquire) the right amount of data, then use the algorithms to optimize the infrastructure needs. And overall, everybody gets benefits.”

As part of its goal to cover every part of the EV charging infrastructure, Elocity is continuing to invest in research and development regarding vehicle-to-grid technology over the next couple of years. Singh noted that while the technology is largely ready, that may not be the case from a regulatory perspective.

“Every stakeholder has to get involved, if vehicle-to-grid is really going to happen.”

Schneider Electric and sustainability

A trailer with Schneider Electric’s EcoStruxure platform was also available as part of the tour. EcoStruxure is an Internet-of-Things-enabled, plug-and-play, interoperable architecture and platform for homes, buildings, data centres, infrastructure and industries.

The tour included a panel discussion with Charise Le, Schneider Electric’s chief human resources officer; Thomas Duever, dean of the Faculty of Engineering and Architectural Science at TMU; and Neetika Sathe, vice-president of the Green Energy and Technology Centre at Alectra.

The panel cited a World Economic Forum report entitled Future of Jobs Report 2023 showing 23 per cent of jobs are expected to change in the next five years due to new technological adoption and macro-trends like the green transition.

“We train people, and acknowledge at the same time that not everything can be trained right there, there will be people who we have to evolve in terms of the skillsets, people we can train, and to bring them there, and there will be people we probably need to redeploy,” Le told SustainableBiz.

She echoed Singh in stressing the importance of the multi-stakeholder collaborations that lead to developments like the Smart Grid Lab.

“I truly believe the partnership was the university in building this ecosystem. It's not only us, it is very much about the companies, the students, the start-ups coming together,” Le said.

“It’s to push the ambition further from technology perspective. I think the benefit and the value are clear.”

Industry Events