How Lockheed Martin Is Tackling the Smart Grid

Lockheed Martin (s LMT), maker of jet fighters and spacecraft and designer of top-secret government networks, has turned to the smart grid with a vengeance. The gigantic defense contractor has been helping utilities design, manage and secure smart meter networks, distribution grid sensor systems and microgrids for years, but in the past year has ramped up its efforts.

In January, Lockheed Martin launched a platform, SEEsuite, meant to open up its grid integration expertise as a product for utilities big and small. Lockheed also sells an enterprise energy management platform, and has a building energy services division, though it hasn’t explicitly linked the two yet. Its recent attention to smart grid security could ultimately be its trump card.

Like power giants Siemens (s SI) and Schneider Electric, Lockheed is playing all over the smart grid industry, but here’s what you need to know about it:

1. Integration as the Glue.

Over the past few years, Lockheed has been quietly building stables of utility clients eager to apply its integration — and security — expertise to the smart grid. Lockheed’s list of named utility customers include Pennsylvania’s PPL Electric Utilities, New Jersey’s PSE&G and Northern Virginia Electric and Rappahannock Electric, both cooperatives in Virginia. As of last fall, it was advising eight utilities seeking Department of Energy smart grid stimulus grants.

Unlike power system makers like GE (s GE), Siemens and Schneider, Lockheed’s role is as an integrator of systems, Ken Van Meter, Lockheed’s general manager of energy and cyberservices, said in an interview last week. Managing smart grids for utilities is expected to grow from a $470 million business today to $4.3 billion by 2015, Pike Research predicts, and Lockheed is one of a handful of big players — IBM (s IBM), GE Energy Services, Siemens and the like — in that business today.

2. A Platform to Integrate the Masses.

Lockheed’s smart grid platform offering, dubbed SEEsuite, is newer to the picture. Van Meter described it as a “situational awareness” platform, pulling data from lots of different utility systems — grid management, smart meters, back-office billing, and control room monitoring — into one format.

Right now the suite is in use with a number of as-yet-to-be-named utilities, according to George Karayannis, Lockheed energy solutions business development executive. The only named customer so far is utility NorthWestern Power, which is taking part in a DOE-funded, $178 million, Pacific Northwest Smart Grid Demonstration Project. A look at the partners involved in that deployment — smart meters from Itron (s ITRI), home energy management from Tendril, building energy management systems from Siemens and grid volt-VAR control from Current Group — gives a sense of the scope of integration involved. Lockheed expects to announce another big SEEsuite utility customer soon, Karayannis said.

Lockheed breaks SEEsuite into parts. SEEgrid is a “smart grid dashboard” of sorts, linking power generation, transmission, distribution and consumption data with weather reports, market data and the like. SEEload is Lockheed’s demand response platform, and Lockheed has partnered with Oracle (s orcl) for utility back-end software, Alstom for grid control platforms and Control4 and Tendril for building energy management, the latter using OpenADR, an emerging open standard for managing demand response.

Lockheed plans to come out early next year with a lower-cost product aimed particularly at smaller utilities, Van Meter noted. At the same time, its flexibility extends to portable energy management applications; Lockheed is working with the Air Force on a “portable, expandable microgrid” for setting up bases in the field for up to thousands of people, for example.

3. Linking the Grid from Building to Enterprise.

The last of Lockheed’s “SEE” platforms, SEEview, is where enterprise energy management comes in. Karayannis described it as a platform to manage and automate energy and resources planning and controls, from individual building and campuses to regions and company-wide.

Similar enterprise energy platforms are underway at companies like IBM (s IBM), Cisco (s CSCO) and SAP (s SAP), and like them, Lockheed is working to integrate building management systems into the platform, he said. That’s something Lockheed has quite a bit of expertise in, via its energy services business, one of the biggest in the world, with hundreds of buildings under management for everything from lightbulb replacement to smart building systems integration.

Lockheed hasn’t specifically linked its energy services line of work with its smart grid plans, but Karayannis noted the two would be a natural fit. “We’re very optimistic that utilities are going to be deploying sophisticated demand response capabilities, and large customers and department of defense customers are going to be managing their energy at a level never envisioned before,” he said.

4. Security is King.

While Lockheed’s SEEsuite platform is its delivery system for smart grid systems, it’s the company’s security expertise that’s in most demand amongst utilities right now. Beyond its utility clients, Lockheed is involved in three big smart grid security research projects covering smart meters, home area networks and grid “head-end” gear. It’s also working with American Electric Power on a cybersecurity operations center to tie all those features together in a secure framework.

The federal government has put power plants and power grids on its list of key targets needing protection against hackers and saboteurs, and Lockheed just so happens to be a major cybersecurity provider to the Pentagon and other federal agencies. As federal and industry standards for securing the smart grid mature, Van Meter expects that security will become even more important for utilities.

“I can run tools on it that you’ve never thought of having,” Van Meter explained. “Attacks from other countries or criminal enterprises – we see those every day.” The U.S. is predicted to have about 250 million smart meters installed by 2016, he noted, giving a sense of the scale of the security task that awaits.

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