Grid futurability


Resilient, open and sustainable – these are the key features of #gridfuturability according to Antonio Cammisecra, Head of Enel Global Infrastructure and Networks Division, Enel Group.

Says Cammisecra: “Leveraging our innovative technologies and digitalisation expertise in electricity distribution infrastructure, we are enabling a more active role of consumers and, most importantly, delivering clean and reliable energy for all.”

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Distribution of sustainable energy for all plays a fundamental role in addressing present and future global challenges. The transformation of passive distribution networks into Smart Grids, combining the use of traditional equipment with advanced digital solutions that make networks more resilient, participatory and sustainable, is what we call Grid FuturabilityOur way of making electrons smarter by encompassing groundbreaking technological innovation, system efficiency tools, data-based services and platform business models.

The path to grid futurability, step by step

Smart meters, for example, are devices which enable us to manage aggregated demand from residential and commercial buildings, deal with outages more efficiently and gather more and more consumer behaviour insights. We pioneered this digital technology in 2001, measuring its positive impacts on the quality of supply with over 45 million devices currently installed around the world. Today, as we continue to deploy new generation smart meters, we are enabling a more active role for consumers, facilitating new market schemes while continuing to reduce system costs and the environmental footprint of grid operations.

An example of the tangible benefits that digitalisation offers to final customers is represented by the new interface, chain 2, through which the most recent generation of smart meters enables the sharing of near-real time information on consumption and production, facilitating new services such as demand response and home automation features.

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But digitalisation is happening across the full electricity distribution infrastructure chain, allowing us to harness the power of big data and artificial intelligence for network automation, innovating in fields such as self-healing grids and predictive maintenance. This powerful combination of infrastructure and technology (infra-tech) is crucial to deliver flexibility in the electricity system.

From Network Digital Twin to the future of grid work

At the heart of Grid Futurability is our Network Digital Twin, considered by the World Economic Forum as one of the energy sector’s 10 most significant innovations of the decade. A 3D digital model faithfully replicates the electricity infrastructure and the surroundings, identifying single components and their operating state, relying on thousands of sensors physically installed on the grid to deliver real-time information useful to both the distribution company as well as to local stakeholders.

Looking forward, the evolution of grids in the energy transition will continue to demand innovation not only from a technological perspective but also in terms of workforce operations. That’s why digital workforce management tools are so important, making field operations as well as training or safety supervising activities more effective also in challenging environmental conditions. They also provide vital support to personnel with augmented reality, drone scanning and satellite tech to improve efficiency and support field inspections or maintenance.

The technological renaissance of the Grid must meet with a collaborative and “anti-fragile” mindset together with new skills and capabilities to face future sustainability needs and promote a true all-around innovation

Unlocking value to society

Infrastructure is the essential foundation for economic and social activities: affordable, flexible, resilient and inclusive electricity distribution networks play a central role in empowering society at scale and stakeholders to achieve their sustainable goals. That’s why customer, community and stakeholder engagement is crucial for Grid Futurability and should be facilitated by the combined efforts of DSOs, government and the private sector.

Interactions are becoming more and more frequent, customers’ behaviors and expectations are evolving due to rising awareness and global concerns (such as the consequences of the recent pandemic), demanding DSOs to thoughtfully take them into account in order to serve society equitably and sustainably. Through this virtuous collaboration, DSOs are helping the world choose electricity as the simplest and easiest choice to make a more efficient use of the planet’s resources.

As the ambition of a decarbonised world largely depends on the enabling platform of electricity distribution infrastructure, investors around the world are also realizing that smart grid investing is a smart idea. But without an appropriate and dynamic regulatory framework that ensures appropriate levels of investment remuneration and incentive schemes, investor commitment will be hampered. Regulators should therefore embrace the idea of Grid Futurability, encouraging the development of innovative and digital solutions rewarding both performance and long-term sustainability, because in the interconnected world we live in, power grids are the lifeline that makes the functioning of society possible.

The original of this post was featured on LinkedIn and is republished with permission