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Digital Grid Challenges that need to be addressed

Howard Smith's picture
Retired - Manager of Distributed Energy Resource Policy Retired from Southern Company Service

Independent Consultant that is monitoring, developing, and recommending policy and positions as it relates to distributed energy resources and grid edge technologies in support of the electric...

  • Member since 2003
  • 20 items added with 1,288 views
  • Feb 11, 2022

As the 20th Century analog grid converts to the 21st Century Digital Grid with DERs including multi-directional flows and no longer "top-down/central station" planning, there is a need to analyze and address study-state, as well as stability and short-short protection schemes for the new grid.  Also, with the roll-out of more EVs (mobile load and/or resource), load forecasting and real time (8760 data) will be required to effectively and efficiently plan and operate the grid at all voltage levels including BTM.

New sensors and platforms will need to be developed and integrated into all of the processes, as well as new regulatory policies (local, state, Federal) to all the optimum performance including decarbonization.  In addition, models will be need and developed to analyze the new complexities of the grid both for long-term planning and near-term operational planning.  The incorporation of AI will have to be included to prevent Operator overload and provide adequate time to make grid adjustments during daily operations and unexpected events.

All of the above will need to be integrated into the utilities CSS and other TO/IT systems, as well as any other operating groups such as: RTOs, ISOs and DISOs.  Customer and third-party participants' system will have to have compatible interfaces and logistics as to who controls and operates these systems.

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Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Feb 11, 2022

All of the above will need to be integrated into the utilities CSS and other TO/IT systems, as well as any other operating groups such as: RTOs, ISOs and DISOs.  Customer and third-party participants' system will have to have compatible interfaces and logistics as to who controls and operates these systems.

That compatibility is a real concern-- how do you think that plays out? I don't imagine that's something that regulators would get involved with, so how will the industry end up coming to a consensus on a potential standard?

W. Alan Snook, II's picture
W. Alan Snook, II on Feb 17, 2022

Howard - I'm pleased to see you share these important views.  Experience in this industry suggests that "new sensors" means MANY years of (endless) tests/trials/pilots/studying/investigation/analysis/etc.   Rhetorically: Do we truly have YEARS to properly gain a deep understanding of the ongoing dynamic intra-grid conditions that lead to a series of undesirable costs and challenges, and in some cases, disasters?     The good news is that time-proven/field proven sensors are already available.  In our case, they have been time-tested/proven in operator grids and available to the industry for nearly 11years -- with the intra-grid data being seamlessly integrated into existing utility operator platforms.  Perhaps what we truly need is not new sensors, but "new" adoption and "new" use of these already available time-proven/field-proven intra-grid sensors.   When the industry is truly ready to empirically understand what is actually occurring between substations and endpoint meters -- aka the grid segment which is exceptionally dynamic, vulnerable and volatile and is now further exacerbated by a series of previously unanticipated grid-edge impacts, I'm hopeful that already proven commercially available sensors will be engaged via CapEx project funding to help solve the serious challenges that you rightfully surfaced.  Reliable, accurate intra-grid data is important.....Actionable intra-grid data is key....Seamlessly integrated into existing utility operating platforms is a must....ALL of this is already available to operators.   Cheers!  

Jens Dalsgaard's picture
Jens Dalsgaard on Feb 18, 2022

Indeed an important topic. No straight-forward solutions from the usual suspects.

Allow me to draw your attention to this excellent report highlighting challenges and opportunities. This report is written from a European context but should be equally interesting from a North American perspective.



Julian Jackson's picture
Julian Jackson on Feb 18, 2022

Thanks for pointing this out. There are developing solutions, which usually involve the blockchain. You can read about the innovative Distro project at the Port of Rotterdam here: Enhancing Utility Business with Data Analytics, Blockchain, and Artificial Intelligence | Energy Central Incidentally Distro has been a huge success and they are involved in upscaling and new projects which I expect to write about soon.


Audra Drazga's picture
Audra Drazga on Feb 18, 2022

Great post - thanks for sharing! 

Jim Horstman's picture
Jim Horstman on Feb 25, 2022

Having an accurate and well managed model of the grid, such as the architecture currently being developed by EPRI based on the Common Information Model (CIM), is a key component and one of the significant challenges faced by utilities.

Paul Korzeniowski's picture
Paul Korzeniowski on Mar 8, 2022

No doubt that a lot of work needs to be done with so many dramatic changes in process. The technology pieces are largely in place. What still remains is utilities finding ways to cost justify the investments, development of architectures that account for the complexity of the process, and perhaps most importantly, best practices to emerge, so energy companies move from the old to the new. 

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