QUEST for quantum computing in the energy sector

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The QUEST consortium is being established to develop quantum computing applications for electricity power grids.

The Quantum Upgraded Electric System of Tomorrow (QUEST) initiative, which has been launched at the University of Denver, is aimed to build a university-industry consortium to bring the power of quantum information and quantum computing to the challenges of building the grid of the future.

The consortium will focus on developing new quantum models, methodologies and algorithms to solve a range of grid problems more rapidly and accurately than has been possible hitherto.

Potential topics include the increased level of customer participation in the grid, opportunities in distributed energy resource integration and utilisation, power quality and reliability improvement and asset management and system efficiency.

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Others include demand-side management, electric vehicle studies, smart distribution and cybersecurity.

Amin Khodaei, Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Denver, who is leading QUEST told Smart Energy International that the consortium has been built based on past and existing collaborative efforts with the electric utility industry.

One of these is an initiative led by US utility Commonwealth Edison to study how quantum computing could be applied to analyse and model DC power flow. With a model based on a three node system – one virtual generation station and three virtual substations – a proof of concept was established using just four qubits.

The ‘qubit’ or quantum bit is the basis of quantum computing with its ability to take not only the values of 0 or 1 – similar to the bits of classical computing – but also any combination of 0 and 1. This and other characteristics offer the ability to process large numbers of calculations simultaneously.

With the growing volumes of data in an increasingly complex system, quantum computing is expected to have the potential to deliver the analytical capabilities beyond those of the current systems.

One area of quantum computing that Khodaei highlights is quantum artificial intelligence, as a means of detecting patterns and anomalies in data. A potential area of application under investigation is resilience modelling for extreme weather event preparedness and recovery.

The QUEST programme, the first of its type of which we are aware, is currently building its membership and will kick off in January 2022.