Utilities recognise that their communication networks must change to enable next-generation distribution grid.This is according to the findings of a survey conducted by energy market research agency, Zpryme, to understand communication network plans of some 350 global utilities under efforts to optimise energy distribution systems.
Next generation distribution grids will include large portfolios of distributed renewable energy resources and a wide range of smart technologies energy providers will employ to quickly restore services after weather events and to meet changing consumer demands.
According to the survey, majority of the survey participants said RF mesh networks will help them adapt to the changing needs of the energy system. RF networks enable flexibility in utility operations as majority are open standard and interoperable with future technologies.
6% of the utilities say they feel extremely ready with their current communication networks to support changes to the grid in the next five years.
Zypryme forecasts fiber optic and RF mesh to lead the future of layered communication networks.74% of global utilities said they will use fiber optic whilst 65% will use mesh within the next ten years.
RF mesh networks will dominate utility use to automate distribution networks, detect faults and to operate advanced metering infrastructure.
Despite utility interest in adopting RF mesh and optical fibre communications networks, reliability of the technologies is a top priority of utility executives. 91% are concerned about the reliability of the communications networks whilst 78% are concerned about the costs to adopt the solutions. 56% pointed out the issue of cybersecurity.
Matt Smith, senior director of grid management at Silver Spring Networks, one of the companies which commissioned the report, said: “These results show us that utilities are looking ahead to proactively prepare for the future needs – including connecting distribution automation, renewable energy, smart grid and smart city assets – for improvement in service and reliability.
Christine Richards, vice president of Research at Zypryme, added: “The landscape of communication networks is drastically evolving as utilities aim to improve service and sustainability.
“This research highlights what utilities are prioritising as they look to future next-generation distribution grid, and how these priorities may evolve.”
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