The way utilities are acquiring and using data is changing. The proliferation of Smart Meters and other Advanced Metering Infrastructure is providing utilities with unprecedented information about end-user consumption, and the downward trend in the cost of deploying IoT devices to monitor the network means that it is now far more affordable for DSOs and TSOs to expand and deepen their grid awareness. Networks are also experiencing an increase in available data from other streams, both from internal systems such as EMS or SCADA, and from external sources such as weather forecasts or even their customers’ social media posts. At the same time as the volume of available data is exploding, technological advances in how it is analysed now provide the opportunity for utilities to leverage it for far more than its face-value insight.
However, it is not just opportunities, but myriad pressures, which are driving this change. Take for example the uptake of behind-the-meter PV cells in domestic properties and small businesses. Recent forecasts from HIS Markit anticipate global residential PV capacity reaching 90GW by 2021, given the intermittent nature of this supply this poses tremendous challenges to utilities trying to generate day-to-day forecasts for the demand on the grid. As this microgeneration is typically installed at the distribution network level, calculating its impact on demand reduction is especially difficult for TSOs who lack access to data on the rate of uptake and the performance of this type of generation. One example of such a TSO is ISO New England, a region comprising six US states which has seen a sharp uptake in local solar generation. ISO NE has developed sophisticated analytical methods, involving the upscaling of alternate data sets to model the whole PV fleet, in order to stay ahead of this trend. Jon Black, Load Forecasting Manager for ISO NE will be presenting at Phoenix Forums’ Grid Analytics Europe 2018, and this is just one example of how state-of-the-art analytics can help utilities to adapt to a changing landscape of energy generation and demand.
Smart Grid Forums’ research carried out with a cross-section of transmission and distribution network operators from across Europe has borne out that most utilities are aware of the need to evolve, and have begun taking steps to do so. However, many are experiencing the pains of early adoption, and have grown disillusioned as the initial promises made about the potential of advanced analytics are yet to come to fruition. Instead, there are common problems with data quality, lack of standardisation, and an uphill battle to implement the foundations upon which the true value will be extracted from data. Take again the example of Smart Meters, the adoption of which is increasing throughout Europe. The data provided by these meters should empower utilities to be able to make better predictions of day-to-day demand; help automate the planning, upgrading, and maintenance of the network based on likely consumption; more accurately target responses to unexpected losses in the grid; and understand the impact of new assets being connected to their network. However, organisations are facing hurdles end-to-end in accessing and interfacing with the meter communications network; integrating Meter Data Management Systems to interface with their other data systems; and understanding the regulatory requirements in place to protect sensitive customer information.
In short, many utilities need guidance to help them make the leap from the investments they’ve made into new data capabilities to implementing high-value use cases. There are a number of fantastic examples where network operators have made real progress and there are proven results to back this up. Steps must now be taken to ensure that these successes become the rule, rather than the exception – this means collaborating and sharing experience so that previous mistakes can be avoided, and wins can be duplicated. Vendors must support utilities to walk before they can run by ensuring the necessary groundwork is in place to allow networks to maximise their returns and remain flexible and robust to meet new data challenges. Only through this concerted and collaborative effort can the energy industry realise a future wherein sustainable innovations are fully integrated.
Grid Analytics Europe 2018, organised by Smart Grid Forums, is the only end-user led, technically focused conference for the smart grid data community. The event takes place over three days and brings together 16+ experts from TSOs and DSOs to share their experiences of implementing advanced data-driven capabilities throughout a series of case studies. It is the perfect forum for utilities to share experience, and a must attend for data science teams wishing to learn how they can maximise their analytics capacity to support the electricity network of the future.
For more information, please visit www.gridanalytics-europe.com