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Smart Grids

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5. Telecom and Broadband Infrastructure in China

5.4 Smart Grids

A ubiquitous, stable and resilient power grid is a key element in a country’s ability to cope with natural disasters. Not only is electricity needed to power the telecommunications infrastructure that is the focus of this report, it is also vital for directly protecting the lives and well-being of affected people immediately after a disaster strikes, and for facilitating a speedy rebuilding effort.

The vulnerability of China’s electricity grid against natural disasters and extreme weather was highlighted during the Chinese New Year holidays in 2008 when more than a dozen provinces in southeast and central China were hit by the most severe snowstorm in the past 50 years. The power grid throughout the region was severely disrupted, both by downed lines and delayed coal deliveries, affecting more than 30 million people, according to the Ministry of Civil Affairs. The extent and duration of the outage also highlighted the low self-recovery and regional coordination capacity of the power grid in China.

However, large-scale power outages are not only products of extreme weather or natural disasters in China. In general, the electricity grid has not been able to keep up with the

country’s rapid economic growth during the past three decades. Blackouts and brownouts7 are common in many of China’s most populated cities, costing the economy as much as one percentage point of its annual GDP growth, according to a report by the Global Energy Network Institute. The reasons for this situation are threefold: high demand, low generation capacity, and the inability of the transmission network to distribute electricity efficiently.

Moreover, with coal supplying around 80 per cent of the country’s electricity, the inefficiencies in power generation, transmission and consumption not only waste energy and create economic losses, they also increase pollution. The World Bank estimated in 2007 that 750,000 people in China die from respiratory illnesses each year caused by air and water pollution, far more than are killed by natural disasters.

Box 2: What is a Smart Grid?

A Smart Grid is a modernized power grid that uses ICTs to increase the efficiency and reliability of electricity generation, distribution, transmission and consumption through monitoring and control in an automated fashion, with the aim to reduce energy waste, economic losses and pollution of the environment.

In view of the problems described above, China has embarked on a major smart grid development programme since 2007 when a feasibility study of relevant technologies and related research was initiated. Dubbed ‘The Strong and Smart Grid of China’, the government is not only focusing on the ‘smart’ capabilities of the system, but also on its strength, which includes its robustness and resilience against natural disasters.

Responsible for about 80 per cent of the country’s territory, with more than 300 million customers and USD 330 billion in revenues, the government-owned State Grid Corporation of China is at the forefront of these developments. It has divided the programme into three phases, to be completed by 2020:

• Phase 1 in 2009 and 2010 focused on planning, defining technical standards and implementing 228 pilot projects, ranging from metering households to connecting wind and solar power plants and automating distribution networks. Out of a total investment of USD 78 billion in this phase, USD 9.2 billion went into smart grid technology.

• Phase 2, with total investments of USD 283 billion between 2010 and 2015 saw the construction of a nationwide transmission grid based on an ultra-high-voltage backbone, including smart grid management systems, widespread deployment of smart meters, and charging stations for electric vehicles. USD 46 billion was dedicated to smart grid technology in this phase.

• Phase 3 from 2016 to 2020 will see the completion of the nationwide grid construction, and the connection of all coal, hydroelectric, nuclear and wind power generation facilities to areas of high demand through a reliable, intelligently managed transmission network. Another USD 46 billion out of total investments of USD 241 billion in this phase will be dedicated to smart grid technology.

By the end of 2013, a total of 370 million smart meters had been installed across China, with the figure expected to reach 500 million in 2015, according to RNR Market Research.

The West-East Electricity Transfer project is part of the Strong and Smart Grid initiative that is scheduled to be completed by 2020. It addresses the lack of power infrastructure in western China and the imbalance between energy resources and demand in the country. According to the Energy Transition Research Institute, two-thirds of China’s coal, wind and solar resources

7 A reduction in or restriction on the availability of electrical power in a particular area.

are found in the north and northwest of the country, and four-fifths of its hydropower resources are located in the southwest. But two-thirds of the electricity demand concentrates in eastern and central China. Three cross-country transmission corridors were designed to help match demand with supply, which should help make the network more stable and resilient overall.

6. Trends in Applications

This section focuses on a number of examples of how ICTs have been used to enhance DRM in China, including government- and private sector-driven initiatives, and those offering opportunities for public-private partnerships. Innovative solutions that empower individuals and communities to organize themselves in response to a disaster are included, as well as applications that did not meet expectations. Lessons are drawn that will lead to recommendations in Section 8 for the creation of an environment that fosters innovation and cooperation in the interest of economic development and human well-being.

6.1 Space Technology

Although satellites, due to their limitations in bandwidth, cannot fully replace damaged or destroyed fibre optic and mobile telecommunications network infrastructure on the ground, they remain indispensable in DRM. In the immediate aftermath of a disaster, they are often the only functioning platform left for carrying vital two-way communication during rescue and recovery operations. They also play important roles in disaster risk monitoring, prevention and improving preparedness.

China had 100 active satellites in space in 2011—49 for communication, 25 for Earth observation, 12 for meteorology, 12 for navigation and 2 for oceanography).8 China is a major regional space technology player, second only to Russia with 224 satellites in space at the time. China has made considerable efforts in the past two decades to integrate satellite technology into various aspects of its development goals, including DRM. The country has been an active participant in ESCAP’s Regional Space Applications Programme for Sustainable Development in Asia and the Pacific since 1994, with Wuhan Technical University of Surveying and Mapping as a major academic partner.

In 2008, a satellite constellation—the Small Satellite Constellation for Environment and Disaster Monitoring and Forecasting—was launched specifically for DRM. It forms an important component of China's Earth observation satellite system with applications including disaster risk assessment, disaster monitoring, loss assessment and recovery assessment. The first two optical satellites, Huanjing-1A and Huanjing-1B were launched in September 2008, followed by Huanjing-1C in November 2012.

China has also developed its own satellite navigation and positioning system, BeiDou (formerly known as Compass) since 2000. In 2012, a regional system covering China and neighbouring countries in the Asia-Pacific region became operational, and global coverage with the BeiDou-2 system is planned for 2020.

Satellite services and applications are delivering invaluable benefits in disaster risk monitoring and management in China, but recent events have highlighted some issues with potential for improvement. According to a report by the ESCAP Committee on DRR, the NDRC was able to produce a map from satellite images within two hours after the 2008 Wenchuan earthquake struck. The map showed basic information about the affected areas, which was used in decision-making. Yet, it took 30 hours before the first satellite phone call

8 http://www.itu.int/ITU-D/asp/CMS/Events/2011/disastercomm/S3-escap.pdf.

could be made from the most affected area, and it took four days to restore mobile phone services using satellite links to temporarily replace damaged terrestrial backbone infrastructure. A total of 383 emergency telecommunications vehicles were dispatched, many of them equipped with satellite communication facilities. At the same time, 1,300 broadband satellite terminals and more than 2,000 mobile satellite handsets were deployed. But in many cases they could not reach their destinations sooner due to road damage or flooding. Some of the equipment had to be carried by hand to the most affected areas.

These difficulties and delays point to weaknesses in the organizational disaster response structure, rather than to problems with the technology or applications. A more decentralized structure for warehousing and provisioning of emergency communication equipment in disaster-prone areas may be required so that distribution and implementation can be effected in a more timely manner.

Once the equipment was in place and operational, it was used effectively for networking, transmitting remote sensing images, videoconferencing among decision makers, and communicating with hospitals through telemedicine applications used by field teams. Much more detailed assessment reports and maps from aerial photography using small planes and unmanned drones were produced and transmitted to coordination centres, providing critical information on road blockages and flooding, collapsed buildings, and possible relocation areas. The information obtained was then used to deploy rescue and recovery forces, and relocate affected people more effectively.

Within the first four days following the disaster, more than 1,300 images from 23 satellites were used, including those provided by foreign space agencies, which indicates that international cooperation was also functioning. One of the results from the cooperation was the creation of a three-dimensional digital model that was used to manage risk from quake-lake outbursts.

A unique feature of the BeiDou satellite positioning system—a two-way short message service (SMS) with up to 120 Chinese characters per message—proved useful in the response to the Wenchuan earthquake. During the initial stage of disaster response, BeiDou’s SMS service was the only way for rescue teams to convey textual information from the field and receive written instructions, until other means of communication were restored.

The BeiDou SMS service can be interconnected with SMS servers of mobile phone networks, opening up a range of possibilities for new applications. On the downside, the two-way capability makes the BeiDou terminals bigger, heavier and less battery-efficient than regular GPS terminals.

6.2 Mobile and Cloud GIS

The emergence of smartphones and tablets, coupled with the rapidly increasing network coverage for mobile broadband services (see Section 5.1.2) are creating many opportunities for new mobile applications in DRM.

Beijing-based company, SuperMap Software has developed a Mobile GIS solution that allows field staff to record various types of data on mobile devices—text, images, audio and video—

that can then be uploaded through the mobile broadband network to a central database. Geo-tagged with GPS or BeiDou location information, the data can be combined with other GIS data sets, e.g. imagery acquired by satellites or aerial photography.

Figure 24: SuperMap Mobile GIS system architecture

Source: SuperMap Software

Following the SARS epidemic in 2003, SuperMap developed an application for the Ministry of Health that enables the display and analysis of the spatial distribution of suspected and confirmed SARS cases, and the spread of the disease.

The application was used for disaster risk assessment following the Yushu earthquake and the Zhouqu landslide in 2010. Data acquisition teams on the ground equipped with mobile terminals were able to quickly map the extent of the affected area, and record losses and damage information.

Figure 25: Mobile GIS mapping of Yushu earthquake, 2010

Source: SuperMap Software

SuperMap has also developed a cloud-based GIS solution that reduces the hardware investment for clients, and increases infrastructure resilience by using a distributed architecture.

6.3 Social Media and Big Data

The rapidly growing popularity and widespread use of social media is creating a new realm of possibilities to develop applications and services for DRM. Social media platforms offer a number of strengths that make them particularly useful in disaster situations, but they also have some weaknesses that need to be taken into account. Although China’s relationship with social media is a difficult one, there are a growing number of examples from China demonstrating how social media have been effectively used for various aspects of DRM.

Popular social media platforms have user communities that rival or exceed the subscriber base of major telecom companies. In China, the number of active social media accounts (629 million according to wearesocial.net) is almost the same as the number of active Internet users (642 million) and the number of unique mobile phone users (630 million, see Section 5.1.2).

The same source has also found that 21 per cent of the population in China, or 287 million people, use social media applications on mobile devices.

Figure 26: Active social media accounts in China, January 2015

Source: wearesocial.net

Weibo, the Twitter-like Chinese micro-blog platform has more than 500 million registered accounts. Monthly active users were 176 million in December 2014, with a year-on-year increase of 36 per cent. Daily active users were 81 million, with a year-on-year increase of 31 per cent.

The large user base of social media platforms, especially on mobile devices, and their ability to spread messages quickly through sharing/forwarding means that they can be a powerful medium to reach large numbers of people, for example with warning messages or evacuation instructions in disaster situations, and also for fundraising appeals.

Social media platforms have a particular advantage over other conventional communication channels such as SMS or phone calls in that social media platforms are independent of the medium used to access them. For example, if a mobile network is down in an area, people in that area may still be able to access their social media accounts through their broadband service at home or at the office, or by placing a SIM card from another network that is still operational in their mobile device. While their phone number for calls and SMS would change in the latter case, their social media account identity remains unchanged, making them reachable regardless of the access medium used.

Another strength of social media in disaster situations is that they enable two-way communication in a structured manner. In other words, not only can information be sent to a large number of people, it is also possible to receive information from large numbers of people. This ‘big data’ can be analysed systematically and used for situational analyses and decision-making.

Box 3: What is Big Data?

Big data is a popular term used to describe structured and unstructured data sets so large or complex that traditional data processing techniques and applications are inadequate.

Challenges include capture, storage, transfer, sharing, search, visualization, analysis and information privacy.

Research9 has shown that disaster events such as tsunamis, tornadoes and forest fires can be detected very quickly through systematic monitoring of Twitter data for relevant keywords and suitable post-processing. Using location information contained in the data, the geographic extent of affected areas can be assessed much more quickly than by conventional means, i.e.

by ‘crowdsourcing’ the information rather than sending professional field teams out to gather it. Moreover, affected people can be encouraged to post requests for help or needed materials to special social media accounts set up by the relevant authorities.

Of course the use of social media and big data for applications in disaster situations is not without risk. Crowdsourced data comes from many different individuals from all walks of life; it is therefore inherently diverse, unstructured, and can contain bias or even malicious intent. An information overload can occur, and inaccurate or unclear information or rumours—whether created intentionally or unintentionally—can confuse and mislead the public, or even create panic and hamper DRM efforts rather than aid them. It is therefore essential that applications using such data contain advanced algorithms for verifying, filtering and post-processing of crowdsourced data in order to minimize the risk of misinformation.

On the other hand, an absence of information and transparency can be equally damaging.

China found this out ‘the hard way’ during the SARS epidemic in 2003. Social media as such did not exist at the time, but Chinese citizens communicated information and opinions regarding the spread of the virus, symptoms, possible remedies etc. through SMS text messaging. Reportedly, SMS traffic in Guangdong province tripled during the period 8-10 February. The Chinese government did not report the outbreak to the World Health Organization until 11 February, and even afterwards references to SARS were removed from official media. Of course the information passed between people was not always accurate and this led to rumours and even panic.

Despite these difficulties, there are fine examples from China of citizens using social media to organize volunteer initiatives. A New York Times article10 describes how a single individual rallied support from almost 500 people using social media within hours of the 2013 Lushan earthquake, and organized a group of 19 volunteers to deliver food, water and tents to remote villages two days after the disaster, soliciting further donations via social media while travelling. Another group of volunteers put together by a local TV sports commentator through his seven million Weibo followership, delivered 498 donated tents, 1,250 blankets and 100 tarps to areas where government supplies had yet to arrive. These successes prompted the China Internet Information Center, the official government web portal, to

9 See Hongwon Yun, "Disaster Events Detection using Twitter Data", International Journal of KIMICS, vol. 9, no.

1 (February 2011), pp. 69-73. Available from

http://koreascience.or.kr/search/articlepdf_ocean.jsp?url=http://ocean.kisti.re.kr/downfile/volume/kimics/E1ICAW /2011/v9n1/E1ICAW_2011_v9n1_69.pdf.

10 Dan Levin, "Social Media in China Fuel Citizen Response to Quake", New York Times, 11 May 2013. Available from http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/12/world/asia/quake-response.html.

publish an article11 on the role of social media in disaster relief, although the article focused mainly on social media initiatives by government institutions and major corporations and foundations, rather than by citizens.

In 2012, users of the Guokr social network launched a campaign to create a live crisis map within hours of flash floods hitting Beijing. According to TechPresident.com, the crowdsourced map was widely circulated on Weibo and was not only more accurate and easier to read than the one launched by the Beijing Water Authority, it was also available almost a day earlier.

Figure 27: Crowdsourced crisis map of Beijing floods, 2012

Source: irevolution.net

6.4 Free and Open Source Software

Hand in hand with the growing trend of using social media in DRM applications is a need for software that is inexpensive, widely available and open to a large developer community. Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) can be used, copied, modified and redistributed without restriction. Often, FOSS is not only used and supported by volunteers, academics and non-profit organizations, but also by major international corporations.

The Sahana Open Source Disaster Management Software is an example. Initiated by Sri Lankan volunteers as a web-based collaboration tool after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, it was released as FOSS and has since been developed further into a generic DRM tool with

The Sahana Open Source Disaster Management Software is an example. Initiated by Sri Lankan volunteers as a web-based collaboration tool after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, it was released as FOSS and has since been developed further into a generic DRM tool with

문서에서 Building e-Resilience in Mongolia (페이지 31-0)