Energy Central Power Perspectives: Welcome New Expert Interview Series: Ashkan Rahimi-Kian, Smart Grid & Blockchain for Energy Guru and New Expert in the Digital Utility Community
- Oct 21, 2019 6:08 pm GMT
As the wide popularity of Energy Central’s recent special issues on blockchain and distributed energy resources (DERs) has shown, the power grid as we know it is changing rapidly and in transformative ways and utility professionals are eager to talk about it. Nowhere is that more evident than with regard to the digital utility, a term that many had not even heard before less than a decade ago. As cybersecurity practices become more important, smart meters and IoT-connected grid elements become more pervasive, and transactive energy looks to reshape what we thought we knew about energy markets, we need to look to experts in the field to parse through what’s going on and what we need to know moving forward.
As such, the Digital Utility Group of Energy Central was fortunately to recently see Ashkan Rahimi-Kian added as a part of our network of experts. Ashkan’s decades of experience in the utility industry and his focus on transformative digital technologies like smart grids and blockchain make his voice an invaluable one, and so it’s only appropriate to get him to share a bit about that background in this latest iteration of the ‘Welcome New Expert Interview Series’:
Matt Chester: The best way for our community to get to know you and why you’ll be valuable to them as an expert is to start with the basics—Can you let us know who you are, what your experience in the digital utility field is, and what your current role and responsibilities are?
Ashkan Rahimi-Kian: I am Ashkan Rahimi-Kian, a Canadian Citizen, holder of a Ph.D. degree in Electrical Engineering with focus on Power & Control Systems, Senior Member of IEEE, and Professional Engineer in Ontario, Canada.
I have about 24 years of professional R&D and software development experiences in power systems/smart grids planning, optimal operations and bidding strategy in transactive energy markets. I have published about 140 peer-reviewed papers on the above-mentioned subjects. I am the founder and CEO at I-EMS Group Limited, a software solutions (SaaS) provider and consulting firm for smart grids, which is located at the IBM Venture Lab in Markham, Ontario, Canada.
MC: A particular area of expertise you’ve identified is in transactive energy market, including how blockchain is able to power these markets. Can you give an overview for how blockchain could be helpful to tomorrow’s digital utilities, what advantages it brings, and what the future utilities would look like without it (so as to show how useful it is to have it)?
AR: Blockchain and Digital Ledger Technology (DLT) have numerous technical capabilities that make them suitable software platforms for Transactive Energy Markets (TEM). These technical capabilities include:
- Peerto-peer (P2P) scalable business network with registered market participants (including the electricity system operator, distribution grid operator, prosumers and consumers of energy and financial institutions) and defined market/trading rules.
- Smart contracts that encompass all the trading rules set by the ISO/TSO/DSO (electricity system and grid operators) and autonomously make the energy trades happen when all the trade conditions are met.
- Consensus mechanisms, such as proof of stake (PoS) and proof of work (PoW), to help the peers reach an agreement when the ledger data of a new (or existing) node/peer differs from others.
- Cyber Physical System (CPS) with different layers for: 1) connecting the IoT/AMI smart meters to the P2P TEM; 2) metered energy data mining and analysis for the P2P TEM participants; 3) integrating the simulation and optimization engines to the P2P TEM for market clearing and settlement processes. Most importantly, the Blockchainbased CPS is highly secure and meets the cyber & physical security standards set by the ISO, TSO and DSO.
MC: Another field that catches your interest is the smart grid. While it’s fun to talk about the benefits of this shift towards a smart grid, are there any areas of an increasingly smart and digitized grid that keep you up at night? For example, do you think as an industry we’re prepared from a cybersecurity standpoint? Or are there any concerns regarding data privacy of consumers?
AR: I believe that communication protocols developed for smart grids and smart meters such as OpenADR are safe and secure for communication and control of assets such as distributed energy resources (DER) and flexible loads (by means of demand response or DR). Also, as mentioned before, the Blockchain-based Cyber Physical Systems are pretty secure for data/information exchange among peers in a Transactive Energy Market. Therefore, we are ready to shift towards smart distribution grids composed of thousands of integrated sustainable Microgrids that could provide most of their energy demands and also trade with neighboring Microgrids by means of P2P TEM. If we look at major power utility roadmaps, such as Duke Energy, and electricity system operators, such as NYISO, the creation of pilot (or proof of concept) sustainable microgrids (both on & off grid ones) and P2P TEM infrastructure are on their roadmaps.
MC: As digital utility topics continue to jump up the list of priorities from utility executives, are there any technologies or strategies that you think are currently flying under the radar that will receive a surge of interest in the coming years like smart technology has in the past few years? What’s the ‘next big thing’?
AR: I believe Transactive Energy Markets are going to change the power utility business in the world, especially in USA, Canada, and Europe. As the numbers of sustainable microgrids are growing, a secure, flexible, efficient, and user-friendly TEM platform is needed for trading energy within and among interconnected microgrids. So most probably, the TEM design, trading rules, clearing mechanisms for efficient utilization of DER and DR assets, and proof of concept (POC) projects in US, Canada, and advanced European countries are going to be the next big things for the future of energy.
MC: Can you comment on what drew you to the platform and what value you find you get out of this type of community- and collaboration-driven resource? Conversely, what value to you hope to impart upon the community yourself?
AR: I have been a member of Energy Central Community since 2008. I enjoy reading the technology news about US power industry, power utility business trends, and good articles from power industry professionals on the Energy Central website. I also like to be an active member of this nice community and share my knowledge and research outcomes about smart grids, transactive energy, blockchain for TEM, and DERMS software for optimal planning and operations of sustainable microgrids.
MC: Is there anything else you’d like the community to know that didn’t get mentioned in the above questions?
AR: I just want to thank you and your hardworking colleagues at Energy Central Community for creating such a nice, informative, and interactive society for power industry professionals to write articles, exchange ideas and ask questions for a better future of energy that could benefit all stakeholders including the electricity system operators & policymakers, power utilities, prosumers, and consumers of energy.
Thanks again to Ashkan for his willingness to come aboard as a Digital Utility expert and for taking the time to introduce himself to the community in a more detailed manner via this interview. You’ll be able to find Ashkan throughout the Digital Utility Group on Energy Central, so please do say hello, thank him for his contributions, and let him know if you have questions on which you think his expertise would be valued!
Get Published - Build a Following
The Energy Central Power Industry Network is based on one core idea - power industry professionals helping each other and advancing the industry by sharing and learning from each other.
If you have an experience or insight to share or have learned something from a conference or seminar, your peers and colleagues on Energy Central want to hear about it. It's also easy to share a link to an article you've liked or an industry resource that you think would be helpful.