Digitally Powered Utility : Digitally Powered Utility
Making the most of digital grids The digital transformation of the grid comes at the same time as other new game changing technologies such as augmented reality, robotics and artificial intelligence are reaching maturity. Together, these innovations are creating both challenges and opportunities to improve grid operations and the customer experience. Perhaps the biggest challenge may be determining how to best connect elements of new network technology to the legacy systems that support them. Key questions to consider include: • How can utilities use information from the smart network to give customers better information more quickly about energy usage and outages? • How can smart appliances (and meters) be configured to make adjustments on energy use in context of other events impacting the network? • How will improved network data provide better insight into future asset management plans and avoid or defer the need to fund additional infrastructure? • How can both digital and the network be used to balance demand and supply in the increasing multi-directional flow model? “ Digital is becoming a vital weapon in managing the effectiveness of networks and operations. The insights from smart meter usage data is vital as it allows us to more proactively manage and monitor the network, which means fewer outages for customers and more targeted investment in grid improvements. We are at the start of this critical innovation.” John van Weel, Executive General Manager, Service Delivery, Jemena Making the most of smart networks will require utilities to commit to investing in the digital grid. This means building appropriate systems to store and process additional data and investing in the capabilities to analyse this data to extract actionable insights and communicating relevant and helpful data to customers via their preferred channel. Using meter data to digitally map the network Maintaining up-to-date low voltage (LV) network mapping for a large, complex and constantly changing network is challenging. With large numbers of customers affected by planned outages each year, the level of precision required to avoid breaches is very high and manually checking and fixing LV mapping errors is expensive. It’s thought that many distributors overstate the accuracy of their LV network mapping and affected customer lists, leading to false negatives (breaches) and false positives (low impact). Getting these figures wrong risks a utility’s reputation, incurs regulatory fines, reduces customer satisfaction and can cause serious safety issues for customers on life support. Some energy distributors are approaching this challenge by using data within their advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) and network control systems. By mapping the wave patterns from transformers to the wave signals from smart meters, energy utilities can match the “digital fingerprints” of the transformer and ensure the accuracy of their LV network digital mapping. This approach also reconciles the outage notification list against AMI meter ‘power on’ signals to retrospectively learn from any mistakes should they arise. To support this new technology, some energy players have also deployed new portals that keep customers notified of planned outages, lets them register unplanned outages and ensures that life support status is up to date. Historically, utilities collected <10 data points per year about usage in each household. A household smart meter can allow utility companies to collect almost 3500 data points9 9 | Building the digitally powered utility of the future An Australian perspective Smart grid technology to deliver US$18.8b in cost savings worldwide by 2021 — mostly through reduced energy use and avoided emission costs. 10 9. EY Analysis. 10. Source: Smart cities – on the faster track to success, Juniper Research, May 2016.