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How data intelligence can make grid operators the superheroes of the energy transition

image credit: Depsys SA
Steph Fonteyn's picture
Digital Communications manager Depsys

I'm the Digital Communication Manager at depsys, a Swiss-based cleantech company that empowers DSOs by simplifying the energy transition thanks to real-time data and insights.

  • Member since 2020
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  • Jan 4, 2021
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Today, we’re living in the middle of an energy revolution, and time is of the essence because the way we produce and consume energy is unsustainable. But who will be the superheroes of this revolution? The guardians of the infrastructure that we use to distribute the energy, of course. The grid operators.  And, what will their superpower be?

By empowering grid operators with the power of visibility, they can facilitate the energy transition. So how does the power of visibility empower the grid operator, let alone accelerate the energy transition?

They say that powerful things come in small packages. And visibility, for grid operators, is no exception. It’s a small yet intelligent box that grid operators can plug and play in their networks, and it enables them to see what’s happening real-time in their grid. Magic? Not really. Smart? Definitely!

By using the function of historical reports, operators can rest assured that they’re making future proof and precise decisions about their grid, based on data-driven insights, helping them save the day and simplify the energy transition.

AS THE WORLD RECOVERS ECONOMICALLY FROM THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC, THE FOCUS IS INCREASINGLY ON SEIZING THE OPPORTUNITY TO MAKE IT A GREEN RECOVERY. IT’S EVEN AN EXPLICIT GOAL FROM THE EU COMMISSION.

Now, more than ever, it is time for us to collectively reach our CO2 reduction goals and favour scaling up renewable energy sources and clean energy technologies. There are three primary keys to achieving climate goals: decarbonisation, decentralisation and digitalisation.

DECARBONISATION:

One impactful way that we can tackle decarbonisation is through the electrification of transport. By increasing e-mobility fuelled by clean energies, we can significantly reduce CO2 emissions in the transportation sector, bearing in mind that the transport, manufacturing processes and building sectors account for 55% of the CO2 emissions from the energy system, according to IEA. Over the next two decades, energy efficiency and renewables are expected to contribute to around 70% of cumulative CO2 emissions savings, according to the 'Energy Technology Perspectives 2020' by IEA.

DECENTRALISATION:

Most of our clean energy (solar, wind) is produced in a decentralised manner based on local, mostly private, initiatives. “Solar is leading renewables to new heights across the globe“, says Dr Faith Birol the IEA’s Executive Director. Renewable electricity generation is expected to increase by nearly 7% and reach almost 30% of electricity supply globally in 2021 according to the Energy Technology Perspectives 2020 published by IEA. Choosing to fuel our consumption needs with ‘home-grown’ energy, or locally produced sources in the community help reduce our CO2 footprint.

If the distribution grid infrastructure is not ready to handle the decentralised management of energy, then what will be the price we pay of unnecessarily slowing down the renewable energy revolution?” says Gordon Fairley, Sales Leader at depsys.

DIGITALISATION:

Digitalisation is all about the ability to “see” what’s going on in the electricity grid, and of making the right operational decisions based on reliable data. This approach to grid operations becomes the new foundation for securing the successful transition to cleaner, decentralised energies.

Digitalisation isn’t just about the technology; it’s also about shifting the organisation towards a data-driven mindset, where information is shared proactively across functions with the intent of improving business-level decisions.

By 2025, 81% of the energy companies will have adopted artificial intelligence, reaping the numerous benefits of accelerated developments in this field and fast-tracking the clean energy transition” according to Eurelectric’s report in November 2020 - ’AI insights: the power sector in a post-digital age.’

Utilities, who manage the infrastructure required to produce and distribute the clean energy, play a fundamental role in ensuring that we can execute on these goals successfully.

But most of these utilities are blind today when it comes to knowing what is going on in their grid. And this is where the third D, digitalisation, comes in. Data intelligence such as GridEye, the flagship product of Switzerland-based depsys, helps utilities gain visibility and insights into the performance of their grids so that they can ensure successful integration and increase in renewable energies supplying the grid’s consumers.

This smart solution includes the quarterly sharing of “health check” reports that highlight key trends and grid anomalies for all the grid areas monitored by GridEye. The health checks are a free complement to depsys’ GridEye platform that gives ongoing, real-time status of the LV grid.

HOW 50% OF CUSTOMERS WHO DISCOVERED PREVIOUSLY UNKNOWN CRITICAL POINTS IN THEIR ELECTRICITY GRIDS ARE USING THIS NEW INFORMATION AND WHAT IT MEANS FOR THEM?

How does the health check help the heroes, the grid operators, accelerate the energy transition? Health check information makes it possible for the utilities to anticipate better and resolve grid issues such as voltage and current discrepancies, power quality events, and asset performance issues. They can anticipate growing problems, in such a way, that the quality of the electricity provision is never compromised, regardless of how much change they need to deal with.

THE REPORTS ARE SHARED AT OPERATIONAL AND EXECUTIVE LEVEL AT GRID OPERATORS: HOW THIS IS HELPING TO ACCELERATE DIGITALISATION THROUGHOUT THE UTILITIES.

Reporting insights helps accelerate digitalisation throughout the utilities in two ways. First, by making grid operators aware of grid problems that they didn’t know about improves the ongoing stability of the electricity grid. Second, the reports contribute to the digitalisation of the utilities by building the foundation for the required data-driven culture – and a mindset shift in the approach do operational decision-making processes.

Functional leaders and senior management within the utilities get a snapshot of the quarterly performance of the parts of their grid which is monitored, helping them evolve their processes and decision-making precision. As a result, utilities can focus on building the right digitalisation capabilities where it matters most, and in turn, become heroes of the energy transition.

Source: depsys

 

Steph Fonteyn's picture
Thank Steph for the Post!
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Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Jan 4, 2021

Great insights, Steph. Something that might not seem as obvious to those not in the grid operators' shoes every day but can create real change that's needed as the utility industry sits as its current pivot point. Another topic related to data intelligence I don't see you mentioning that I'm wondering your thoughts on: does this intelligence help create change through increased accountability as well? Knowing that data is there to diagnose problems accurately after the fact, does it create an increased incentive for grid operators to not misstep with their decisions? Not that they would ever intentionally make the wrong decision previously, but the transparency seems to be a key outcome here for all stakeholders. 

Steph Fonteyn's picture
Steph Fonteyn on Jan 5, 2021

Thanks, Matt, you are welcome!

In answer to your question about data intelligence increasing accountability:  

By definition, more data brings transparency and in turn, brings increased accountability. Not just for diagnosing after the fact, but equally for planning how to best spend money in the future (investment versus optimisation) This is the part of any digital transformation and may make some people and/or functions uncomfortable. So top-down direction and encouragement are definitely needed.

I hope this answers your question. Have a wonderful afternoon!

 

Mark Silverstone's picture
Mark Silverstone on Jan 6, 2021

In order to decarbonize the world, it is essential that the world´s leading countries obtain and spread expertise that can be copied by developing countries. While it is clear that deployment of renewables can be accomplished worldwide, especially to energy poor countries, it is less obvious, though no less important, that smart grid solutions must be a part of the mix. It is to be hoped that skills related to application of data driven solutions can be shared with the developing world.  It has to be part of the package to enable effective energy solutions where it is needed the most.

Steph Fonteyn's picture
Steph Fonteyn on Jan 7, 2021

Thanks for your comment, Mark. The solution to decarbonising the world definitely needs to be collaborative and that's why it's important to develop SmartGrid technology in collaboration with those who need to use it. 

Jon Porreca's picture
Jon Porreca on Jan 7, 2021

Great post, thanks for sharing!

Steph Fonteyn's picture
Steph Fonteyn on Jan 12, 2021

Thanks Jon, and a Happy New Year to you!

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