There is little doubt that utilities today face a major challenge in maintaining sustained access to energy and in safeguarding its long-term delivery to consumers. In light of this inescapable reality, it is encouraging to see the Technology Strategy Board show support for local clean energy generation with its latest program, through which it will invest up to £11 million to support research and development to stimulate innovation in localized energy systems.
While currently geared at stimulating innovation among small businesses, the initiative could very successfully be adapted to drive progress across the entire country. With the smart meter rollout imminent and the smart energy market expected to grow by roughly 30 per cent each year across the EU, innovation in this space is most welcome, and quite frankly necessary for any economy looking to keep up with this fast pace of innovation.
Grid operators, who are already tasked with ensuring the safe, secure, reliable flow of power to consumers, will face many new challenges as the grid gets linked to a growing number of localized energy networks. To overcome these difficulties and successfully manage the integration of new technologies onto the grid, energy retailers will rely on smart-grid technology, and on the network management systems that will allow them to balance demand and supply more effectively.
An intelligent grid
As dynamic, intricately connected webs, utility networks present unique engineering and safety challenges that make them particularly complex to manage. To facilitate the move toward localized power generation and help support the accelerating adoption of renewable energy sources, grid operators will need to adapt their network infrastructure and IT resources to keep networks running smoothly even as new energy sources are added to them.
For energy utilities, the key to modernizing their network management systems lies in the data they will collect and analyze from the smart grid. This will include not only consolidating the vast amount of information that next-generation grids will provide them, but also quickly converting this into valuable network insight.
With the heightened awareness of network behavior they will gain with the smart grid, operators can then take a more proactive approach to managing energy flow and deliver a more stable and reliable service to their customers.
Applied to localized power generation sites, this means that the grid can provide utilities with data-driven insight into network behavior that will allow them to accommodate flow disruptions caused once these new energy sources are added to the grid. To add to this, data analytics tools can help energy retailers optimize distribution to keep wastage to an absolute minimum.
Putting data to good use
As the smart grid rollout takes form, utilities will begin collecting and analyzing information from a growing number of data points to better understand how voltage is being distributed throughout their networks. Modern network management systems can help utilities make the most of the information they collect from charging stations by allowing them to automatically adapt demand response to network conditions in near real-time.
With the ability to automatically balance power supply and demand in the grid, utilities will be able to tailor their energy distribution strategy to match real-world network behavior, and open the door to new levels of power efficiency. Once they can redirect flow as required in this way, energy retailers can drastically reduce the risk of localized overloading or outages. This level of control will help utilities avoid overburdening transformers to the point of failure, and preclude the significant damage to network assets that these malfunctions can cause.
Ultimately, network management systems will allow energy utilities to unite complex processes across the grid to optimize load distribution, which will in turn help them accommodate the addition of major new energy sources such as localized generation centers and renewables. These solutions can also provide utilities with continuous updates on the status of their network assets, and therefore give them a valuable head-start on crucial maintenance and repair works.
Making a meaningful change
The search for more affordable and sustainable forms of energy production such as green power initiatives and renewables will continue to gain momentum. As the energy gatekeepers for the general public, utilities will need to facilitate change while maintaining a high standard of service.
An intelligent energy management strategy will be vital for grid operators as they work to achieve this. The data analytics tools and cutting-edge IT applications that support their smart grid operations will help them make sure green technologies integrate seamlessly with the national power infrastructure and provide the public with a meaningful and reliable energy supply.
This was a guest post and an exclusive from Mike Ballard, Oracle’s senior director of utilities strategy EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa).