- Feb 9, 2023 12:26 am GMT
This item is part of the 2023 Predictions and Anticipated Trends for the Power Industry - January/February, click here for more
There is no doubt about it; every day our lives are becoming more dependent on reliable electricity. From transportation systems and critical infrastructure to at-home medical care, the slightest interruption in service can have dire consequences. With extreme weather events becoming more frequent and severe, and with the transition to electricity as a source of clean energy creating more complexity on the grid, the message is clear: Our power grids must become more resilient.
Looking ahead to the rest of 2023 and beyond, I see grid resilience becoming more important than ever. The challenge is how we measure resilience and make sure we consider all electrical power outages. With the demand for reliable electricity reaching the grid edge, the utility industry will need to improve its ability to deliver to its customers. This means keeping the power on during storms and restoring power quickly when outages do occur.
How do we make grid resilience a priority? We must invest in and modernize the distribution grid.
Let’s look at the customer side of the grid, starting at the grid edge. We must understand how customers use power, what they need, and what their expectations are. To match their expectations, we must continue to modernize the distribution end of the grid to improve their experience and their expectations for resilient power.
Distribution capacity at the grid edge must support new demands for and dependencies on power—for example, with the growing adoption of electric vehicles (EVs). In the past, people may have been OK with power being out for a few days. That is definitely not the case now. Too much in our daily lives depends on reliable power, from charging personal or fleet EVs to supporting work-from-home setups and in-home medical equipment. Loss of power for extended periods is simply becoming less acceptable.
Overhead and underground residential lines must be dependable every single day and recover quickly when outages occur. So, how do we improve this at the grid edge?
For underground residential lines: S&C recently introduced its EdgeRestore® Underground Distribution Restoration System, which reduces the impact of permanent outages that commonly last for hours to 60 seconds or less. This modernizes the last mile of underground power distribution to quickly identify and isolate faults, restore power, and improve reliability and resilience by reducing permanent power outages.
For overhead lateral lines: More widespread use of technologies such as fault interrupters and self-resetting reclosers will improve overall resilience by interrupting faults to prevent outages in the first place. When outages do occur, these intelligent devices minimize outage duration and impact.
Powering through the storm
With extreme weather events and the outages they cause becoming more commonplace, grid resilience is more important than ever. Another trend we will see is decentralization of power systems, with self-healing components that do not depend on a central communication system to operate when a weather event is happening.
During a storm, when cell towers and other communication networks may go down, these components communicate with each other to keep working. With the EdgeRestore system, it works with the power line carrier, and the system’s units talk only to each other to isolate the fault causing the outage. They then reroute power away from the fault to restore service. These systems are not dependent on a larger communication network to function.
Getting ready for EVs
Besides more frequent severe weather events, there will be a massive increase in the electrification of mobility. Between 2020 and 2021, we saw 85% growth in EV sales. In the first three quarters of 2022, 6% of all vehicles sold in the U.S. were EVs. This trend will continue to accelerate, and the distribution side of the grid has to be ready for this increased demand.
Automakers and consumers will not accept an outdated grid or patiently wait for this to be resolved. They will demand upgrades and more capacity. To accommodate what our customers need, the distribution portion of the grid must be modernized. These upgrades must start happening now.
The grid has to be able accommodate continuous and ever-increasing customer demand, be resilient during storms, and be ready to recover quickly when outages occur. Too many aspects of our daily lives are now dependent on plentiful and reliable power.
I cannot overemphasize the importance of grid resilience and how it is driving the need to modernize the distribution end of the grid. In addition to a reliable power supply, we must deliver rapid and predictable power restoration when outages occur.
Fortunately, we are ready to meet this challenge. We will continue to adopt new solutions, intelligent applications of existing technology, and a forward-thinking approach to improving customer experience.
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