Top six grid edge trends

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Thorsten Heller, the CEO of smart grid solutions firm Greenbird has highlighted the six key trends associated with grid edge during a discussion hosted by Smart Energy International.

Meanwhile, Kurt Michel, senior vice president of marketing at IoT solutions firm Veea, who was also part of the discussion provided some further recommendations to help utilities simplify grid edge initiatives.

The key trends include:

  1. Utility companies are now aware of grid edge and associated operational benefits.

Compared to a year ago, grid edge has become instrumental for utilities to achieve grid modernisation, digital transformation, consumer services improvement and energy transition goals, according to Heller.

He said: “Many utilities now understand grid edge in a different way than last year, they thought it was technology or assets at the edge of the network. Now utilities are aware that grid edge is the holistic view of the network.”

When talking about grid edge, utilities are now referring to data, analytics and the intelligence of the grid.

2. Utilities are taking ownership of the grid edge

A year ago, utilities talked about deploying grid edge devices and have them managed by third parties. This has changed as utilities are now taking ownership of the grid edge. They are viewing grid edge as both an opportunity and a threat hence have become hesitant to leave grid edge in the hands of third parties fearing losing the opportunities that would result from the business models and digital technologies.

3. Utilities are taking a different approach to IT infrastructure

Infrastructure and technology demands associated with grid edge and digitalisation are forcing utility firms to upgrade and take a different approach in regard to the structure of IT architecture.

Utilities are now preferring decentralised IT setups for secure, resilient and fast data acquisition, storage, telemetry and processing.

4. Energy companies are introducing new use cases

A year ago, the majority of use cases were related to electric vehicles but now utilities are leveraging grid edge data to come up with new services and use cases.

Energy companies are embarking on using real-time grid operations data to control a wide range of distributed energy resources and to ensure flexible load management.

5. Consumer/prosumer participation in grid reliability

Grid edge has enabled consumers/prosumers to play a key role in the energy transition rather than be just spectators.

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Owing to real-time use of data from consumer onsite energy assets and data regarding the status of the grid, prosumers are now able to contribute their energy for the reliability of the grid.

6. Cognitive utility concept

Many utilities are now taking a cognitive utility concept approach, whereby they are using digital technologies as a foundation to improve their operations or to prepare for the future by introducing data-driven services.

Energy providers are integrating digital assets and are using data they acquire to build cognitive use cases such as using artificial intelligence to predict outages, load demand, energy generation and to monitor and control consumer monthly energy consumption.

Recommendations for successful grid edge programmes

Michel added that for utilities to ensure successful grid edge and digital transformation rollouts, they should:

Integrate data and energy to become a utility of the future. Without data, energy decentralisation and decarbonisation will not happen, according to Michel.

He said by integrating data and energy, utilities will be able to match demand and generation, optimise management of distributed energy resources for improved grid operations and customers services.

Michel urged utilities to store consumer and grid operations data in the cloud. In doing so, Michel has urged utilities to opt for multiple cloud service providers, not just one.

He also urged utilities to ensure data aggregation at the edge for extensive analysis and to get over regulations such as the UK’s GDPR which restricts them from making use of consumer smart meter data

Michel reiterated by saying utilities need to embrace 5G as the technology will bring a huge change to the energy sector. 5G will bring more and innovative use cases within the energy sector as it will enable real-time use of big data.