Tips for a successful utility grid modernisation programme

A number of factors, such as the lack of adequate planning or energy providers choosing the wrong technology or partners, can lead to utilities facing challenges when implementing grid modernisation programmes.

Globally, regulators have set ambitious climate targets, which are forcing utilities to speed up their grid transformation initiatives.

This is resulting in more complexity for energy companies, as more and more distributed energy resources and digital technologies are integrated with grids.

In a presentation made during the Itron Utility Week for EMEA, representatives from Itron presented some recommendations on how utilities can ensure successful grid modernisation programmes.

Tips for a successful grid modernisation project

Daniel Popa, solution marketing manager at Itron, urged utilities to adopt open standards.

Open standards would enable interoperability between various grid assets and applications from different manufacturers.

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Interoperability will, in turn, enable the integration of new and innovative technologies and use cases, such as electric vehicles, solar PVs, energy storage.

Energy providers should also target high-performing solutions and certified technology vendors.

These high-performing solutions should leverage machine learning, artificial intelligence and other innovative digital capabilities that can help optimise the operations of grid networks or ensure remote functions. A high-performing solution could on average reduce non-technical losses for a utility by 75%.

Connectivity must be high: Grid communications technologies that utilities choose must be applicable for all environments: Urban, semi-urban, rural. dense and flat. Utilities must ensure their communications network meets the demands of their grid modernisation strategy, meaning data telemetry should be fast and secure.

Assure end-to-end security: Security must a top priority in all the layers of a smart grid application and this will determine the resilience of a utility grid network.

Distribution operators should go for a solution with no security gaps and one that encrypts data on all communications of the grid assets from network towers to back head-end systems.

Consider future use cases: Utility smart grid deployments should be sustainable and open for growth.

Technology should enable a utility to expand its uses in the future or allow the introduction of new use cases.

A solution should be cost-effective but with high returns. Energy firms must consider the costs of the technology and its impact on utility operations with regard to how the solution would ensure cost-savings for the utility and the customer.

Regarding, contract management, utilities should favour managed services to de-risk grid modernisation programme rollout. They should consider software-as-a-service to ensure full implementation of a programme is well taken care of by a single vendor. This would help in the sense that a utility can make use of its resources to improve customer services by delivering energy whilst the vendor leverages its expertise in ensuring the utility grid modernisation project is a success.

Another issue that was raised during the webinar is that utilities should partner with multiple vendors for the provision of various equipment or assets, for instance, smart meters. A utility should not rely on a single vendor, product or technology but should rather deploy open-source applications and ensure interoperability of various technologies and grid assets in its grid modernisation. This would enable innovation and the introduction of new services in future. Deploying technology or equipment from a single vendor in the entire programme would limit the utility from expanding its grid capabllities.

Learn more about how to ensure a successful grid modernisation programme by registering for the on-demand session here.