The power utilities sector is transforming from a one-way (unidirectional) power flow, into a more distributed grid. One with a decentralized power generation network that no longer depends on large generation plants. Instead, it will have numerous small-scale power ‘generators’ and rely on multiple renewable energy sources. Sources such as: solar, wind, hydro, and gas located in rural, metropolitan and residential areas. In this decentralized power grid, energy flows in multiple directions and consumers can just as likely be energy producers.
Keeping pace with these changes is keeping power utilities on their toes
Much of the change from the old to the new is being driven by technological trends. In effect, creating what’s called the ‘Energy Cloud’. Many aspects are changing simultaneously, including:
Ambitious programs such as ARRA (American Recovery and Reinvestment Act - 2009) and the EU’s 20-20-20 initiative are pushing grid technology deployments. Power utilities all differ, and depending on local/regional laws and regulations, will each have different reasons for embracing change and modernization. But modernize they will, whether they would like to or not.
At the heart of this change is the communications network (ICT network)
It is the ICT network which holds the key to enabling all these new technologies, and yet it is also changing. From IT/OT convergence to FAN-to-T&D connectivity, legacy networks are being EOLed and the power companies must cope with change across a wide range of parameters.
There’s no ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution. Each requires different interfaces and capabilities from the transmission communications network, which must, by default, provide deterministic, low latency connectivity, be multi-purpose and multi-service and have the flexibility to support new connectivity mechanisms when they become available.
The next generation of mobile technology, 5G, will be paramount to this change. 5G aims to evolve from providing best effort data services, to becoming a ubiquitous connectivity platform for residential, business and critical industries. As part of this it will be the architecture to support the massive IoT involved with supporting the evolution to smart utilities.
How to cope?
To embrace distributed energy resources requires root and branch changes to the traditional way of doing things – new business models, assured security, resilience, grid reliability, and a fully supported digital transformation.
As organizations start on the long and winding road to upgrade and modernize their mission-critical energy infrastructure, they'll need consider the following key elements:
But what are the options for power utilities, and how should they go about reconfiguring the ICT infrastructures which have served them so well in the past?
This new whitepaper, will delve into the challenges and opportunities that arise in this time of change. We will discuss:
Marco is Head of Utilities and Critical Infrastructures Vertical Solutions at ECI. As such Marco is in charge of developing opportunities, solutions, sales tools and collateral for the variety of customers in his vertical.