The path to the 21st century utility system
If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there
When it comes to grid modernization, we’ve come a long way from one-way energy delivery and communication networks to multi-dimensional information flows and now to intelligence that’s being pushed to the furthest edges of the grid.
We’re creating a world where millions or billions of devices and sensors are communicating through common systems simultaneously. This is a world where utility business processes, customers and the Internet of Utility Things interact in a seamless dance and where customer needs are anticipated long before they are expressed.
But how do we get there? How do we connect the meters and sensing devices that are already out there – much less the ones that are coming – so we can extract, analyze and take advantage of the huge volume of data they collect? How do we connect the technology solutions, communications protocols and other components of the emerging energy future? How can utilities remain viable in a climate of energy efficiency and distributed generation, while implementing new services and products that will engage and delight customers while growing revenue.
Pervasive changes in grid operation dictate the need for enhancements to overall situational awareness for the grid operator. This, in turn requires much greater insight into what’s happening at the edge of the grid, where factors like increases in distributed generation and theinflux of electric vehicles are challenging traditional delivery and protection methods, which were not designed for today’s realities.
On the edge: Thinking and acting differently
As Moore’s law continues to drive down the cost of industrial grade processors, wide-scale application of advanced metering and communications networks will create an unprecedented level of distribution grid awareness. Meters with multiple, integrated communication technologies will become more pervasive, with use cases extending far beyond traditional service point billing and control.
Deploying intelligent sensors at the edge of the grid is an effective way to proactively anticipate and prevent operational disturbances and make our utility grids more reliable, efficient and open to a changing mix of generation sources and customer needs. According to a recent report from IDC, 40 percent of IoT data will soon be processed at the edge of the grid.
Such an evolution requires that we strike a proper balance between grid edge intelligence and centralized operational data in a way that creations actionable intelligence over a robust and open communications network.