Learning to Run a Power Network with Artificial Intelligence

Posted to EPRI in the Digital Utility Group
image credit: Image Credit: EPRI
Jeremy Renshaw's picture
Senior Program Manager Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI)

Dr. Jeremy Renshaw is the Sr. Program Manager for Artificial Intelligence at the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) and has been with EPRI since 2012. Dr. Renshaw manages the AI.EPRI...

  • Member since 2021
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  • Aug 18, 2021

Power grid operators monitor and control the electricity network 24/7/365. As increasing numbers of low capacity and variable distributed energy resources, such as renewables (wind and solar), and advanced network components come onto the grid - combined with significant increases in demand for energy and variability of demand from electric vehicle penetration and electrification efforts, control room operators are being stretched to their limits. On top of the list of demands during normal system operations, operators are up against a barrage of extreme weather events that cause major disruptions to bulk power systems around the world.


To accelerate solutions that could alleviate these increasingly complicated challenges, EPRI co-sponsored the Learning to Run a Power Network (L2RPN) Challenge with Réseau de Transport d'Électricité (RTE), Google Research, ChaLearn, IQT Labs, University College London, V&R Energy, Pacific Northwest National Lab and several European- and US-based universities. The challenge, developed by RTE, is aimed at developing artificial intelligence tools to support operators’ decision-making to manage the increasingly complex system of the future.


Challenge participants were asked to create a reinforcement learning (RL) based agent that would be trained and evaluated on a virtual power network. The aim was to create an agent that would monitor and control the synthetic power network as it changed over a year in five-minute intervals. The agents had to respond to disturbances on the network and ensure supply was maintained at all times in a safe and cost-efficient manner. In grid operations, RL has the potential to aid operators by rapidly assessing conditions in real time and looking ahead and providing recommendations, boosting grid stability, and ultimately improving reliability to customers. The agents would act as an “autopilot” in real time, guiding the decisions of the operator. In 2021 the L2RPN competition was expanded to develop “trust in AI,” whereby agents are designed to flag confidence in their decision making, identifying future scenarios where unstable states would occur, and identifying the location on the network where the issues will arise, if not corrected. This trust building is essential for human-machine coordination in the control center of the future.


The solutions created by the challenge participants are driving the development of RL methods for power network operation in the real world. Ultimately, it is hoped that the best RL agents will optimize network operation, identify issues and associated actions, and decrease grid congestion, resulting in fewer brownouts and blackouts. Additionally, the agent will allow operators to enhance future-looking decisions as the model becomes more predictive. Long-term, models can be applied beyond electricity flow simulations, and used for grid protection studies, grid market studies, energy system planning and dynamic simulation.


Learn more about how EPRI is convening the AI community to produce transformative solutions for the grid of the future at EPRI’s AI and Electric Power Summit on September 28-29, Register here.



Founded in 1972, EPRI is the world's preeminent independent, non-profit energy research and development organization, with offices around the world.
Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Aug 18, 2021

Sounds like a really cool event-- almost like a Hackathon

Jeremy Renshaw's picture
Thank Jeremy for the Post!
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