Resiliency, or Grid Resiliency, seems to be the word on the street for 2021. It can be defined as the ability of organizations to rapidly adapt and respond to all types of risks – such as natural disasters, cyber-attacks, supply chain disruptions, among others. Undoubtedly, the Coronavirus pandemic has certainly changed the way we all operate – and will continue to do so for the months to come. However, despite its devasting effects on a global scale, the energy sector continues to rise above what has been going on. More so, there is more of a demand today for key insights and data to help utilities and organizations make better decisions. This article is going to unpack a few of the trends that Utilismart has seen in the industry, and how resiliency is playing a part:
The Utility Digital Transformation
Digital transformation in the energy sector is the process of adopting new digital ways, technologies, or innovations with clear business goals as utilities are reinventing themselves in the 21st century. Some of the business goals could include but are not limited to improved customer satisfaction, more streamlined operations, and greater efficiencies of the electric grid. For many utilities their objective is to go beyond reviewing, optimizing and transforming existing business models and find new innovative ways to conduct business.
With the adoption of the Internet of Things (IoT) in the energy sector, data collected from remote devices through IoT can be used to replicate real-life circumstances in a digital twin environment. This enables different simulations to be performed and outcomes analyzed to better prepare the utility for problems when they may arise and contributes to the overall resiliency of the grid. By doing so, utilities can make it easier and more effective for powerplants to predict and prevent failures while optimizing energy production. Vice President of Business Development and Operations, Miro Karlicic poses the question, “Imagine a world where we can run simulations to find out what the perfect operational conditions are.” The Digital Twin theory addresses just this. “This is simply one among many ways we transform our industry. It will allow utilities to become more flexible and even more resilient,” remarks Karlicic.
With these digital twins’ utilities are able to cut costs and gain better grid visibility and manageability. “The digital twin concept has quickly become more relevant now mor than ever when businesses alike are having to pivot and embrace a new normal. However, as big data analytics, artificial intelligence, and blockchain are assisting with growth and increased revenue streams for utilities, we continue to push the boundaries to develop innovative software solutions that allow utilities to transform their day-to-day operations,” adds Karlicic.
Realizing the Value of AMI Data
As many utilities accept and deploy Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) Systems, they are becoming increasingly aware of the vast amounts of powerful information in the data provided by the AMI system. The trend among these utilities is the desire to leverage this data. Putting the data to work to improve their distribution grids from a meter up perspective. The value in this is unlocking this data by leveraging robust data solutions. The key is information such as an outage, voltage, diversion, and more messages included with the daily billing information.
As utilities are moving toward a holistic view of their systems, seeing beyond substations and smart line monitors to understand signals that show weakness in the system and need for improvement. They also look for applications offering advanced analytics that can deliver the intelligence beyond managing billing data.
While each utility has unique challenges they need solutions for, they need to address and understand how various data tools that allow for extensive rate analysis modeling, forecasting overload issues, proactive alerts for failing infrastructure, identify, manage, restore and report on outage events can assist utilities in having greater control of day-to-day operations. Karlicic says “Utilismart’s suite of applications allows utilities to view the current status of their distribution grid and offers a viable prediction of what they can expect for load flow, distributive generation, energy storage and more.” This is a paradigm shift from managing the grid in a reactive mode on scripted usage models to providing a bottom-up, deep insight into a utility’s territory.
Solving today’s challenges with DERMS
New technologies open the doors for innovative developments and innovations, affording utilities the unique opportunity to welcome and embrace the smart, resilient, grid movement. One of the reasons that this has become, and continues to become, a major trend within the energy sector is because of Distributed Energy Resource Management Systems (DERMS). DERMS can be classified as is a software-based platform that offers a solution to current and future challenges modelled by distributed energy resources such as solar and any other energy resources on the grid. DERMS is able to deliver vital grid services and balances demand to assist utilities in achieving mission-critical outcomes.
“We’re seeing the grid evolve to become more adaptable and dynamic. Today, utilities are under pressure to embrace new technologies and software platforms in order to help the operation teams to anticipate, respond to, and recover from extreme events,” explains Karlicic. Today, DERMS provides utilities with more flexibility, resiliency and grid visualization. “Within Utilismart we are working with our customers to reinforce our grid visualization solutions. Take SmartMAP for example, it allows us to provide our customers with the opportunity to visualize the EV locations and how it affects our load flow analysis tool within the program,” adds Karlicic.
The rise of microgrids
Climate change is a thing of our reality today, and with that, there is an ever-growing demand on the electric grid to ensure that it can manage and handle the harsh weather conditions we’re faced with. This means that now more ever power grids need to become more resilient to these super storms and weather conditions. One way of achieving this is through sustainable microgrids. Microgrids can be thought of as individual energy units within the larger electrical grid. Many are being drawn to microgrids because they are able to create power-generating customers at any point in the value chain – such as businesses or residents with solar energy systems. When these installations produce more power than needed, they afford the owners the opportunity to earn residual income. A massive advantage of microgrids is that they are able to disengage from the larger grid in order to keep its customers temporality electrified in the event of a blackout. Although microgrids are the way of the future, there is still a long way for them to go. The reason for this is that they are not yet a practical solution for supporting everyday activities because they still run off diesel and other fossil fuels.
Utilities are reviewing their internal designs and operations to ensure reliability and resiliency is seen across the grid. There is no doubt that the value of data has become a primary focus for utilities as they seek to understand energy efficiencies, demand response, and customized consumer engagement more. However, the good news is that Utilismart’s suite of applications, current and future, provides a platform for utilities to tap into advanced data analytics and convert this data into meaningful and actionable decisions. Some of the future developments that Utilismart plans to implement include meeting the growing adoptions of Distributed Energy Resources (DER). Some modules are currently in development such as the plug-in electric vehicle recognition module, which is part of SmartMAP’s product development roadmap. Utilismart also plans to fully embrace Artificial Intelligence (AI) to continue to enhance a utilities visibility and understanding of the distribution system as it becomes even more complex with the forecasted DER’s penetration into the market. This will become the catalyst for the digital transformation of the electric utility industry, while continuing to empower them to become more resilient in challenging and uncertain times.