By combining a distributed intelligence (DI) platform with real-time vision technology, the possibilities of using low-voltage grid management are being redefined.
In today’s dynamic energy industry, the low-voltage grid plays an increasingly critical role—especially as electric vehicles (EVs) and distributed energy resources (DERs) such as solar, wind power and battery storage become more widespread. Global EV sales grew 43% in 2020, and though more than 3 million EVs were sold in 2020, within seven years the global EV market is expected to reach 233.9 million units1–stressing rapidly aging infrastructure and providing grid operators with new challenges to balance supply and demand.
When it comes to DERs, Navigant Research has called the integration of renewable energy “one of the most disruptive factors affecting the grid of today and the future”2—something that must be addressed as the cost to implement residential solar continues to decline, on-premise/distributed battery storage becomes more viable and wind power contributes more electricity to the grid.
Both EVs and DERs can play a significant role in stemming global climate disruption, but their impact on the reliability of the electricity distribution grid can’t be understated. Neither can the cost of not addressing these grid issues today: in 2021, the U.S. Department of Energy put the total cost of grid failures between $28 billion and $169 billion annually.3
What used to be a one-dimensional flow of power from generation to customer homes and businesses is now becoming an interactive, two-way transaction with more unpredictable variables than ever before. But by using the right insights, in the right places, utilities can monitor and control the low-voltage grid to maintain grid reliability, resiliency and efficiency.
By combining a distributed intelligence (DI) platform—which leverages an industrial IoT network, smart grid sensors and edge computing—with real-time vision technology that provides continuous insights, analytics and control, the possibilities of using low-voltage grid management are being redefined. By collaborating closely with partners that have extensive industry experience in delivering turnkey programs, solution expertise can be leveraged to help evolve the low-voltage grid.
More Intelligence Unlocks More Possibilities
For the most cost-effective insight into the least visible part of the distribution system, visibility can be provided both in front of and behind the meter. What used to be possible only with expensive, point solutions can now be achieved by layering on new use cases to an already-established AMI system.
By using smart, DI-enabled meters with peer-to-peer connectivity, high-resolution data and edge computing, all connected via a secure and resilient multi-application industrial IoT network, applications can be downloaded to devices in the field in order to solve specific grid challenges. The concept is similar to a consumer-based mobile phone or tablet device that uses an operating environment and runs various applications.
With this technology, utilities can:
- Gain true situational awareness and real-time visibility to endpoints across the network
- Ensure grid reliability when faced with unpredictable, variable load
- Protect and extend the life of vital grid assets such as transformers
- Lower operating costs
- Maximize the adoption of DERs and EVs
- Provide new avenues for customer engagement
- Open the door to new revenue streams
Targeted Portfolio for Low-Voltage Grid Challenges
The proliferation of both EVs and DERs will have a significant impact on overall grid operations, particularly across the low-voltage grid—and there are solutions that will address these challenges. For example, Itron is introducing several new solutions in our portfolio. These solutions run on the DI + real-time vision technology platform. They can help utilities better manage these new variable grid assets, transform the low-voltage grid and improve the return on infrastructure investments.
Itron EV Charging Optimizer lets EV program managers at utilities set up, monitor and manage a holistic, fleet EV charging solution that includes:
- Commercial customer charging management, scheduling, etc., for EV fleets
- Grid analytics and optimization from Itron’s real-time vision platform
- Enrollment of customers into EV charging programs
- Charging-as-a-service management programs through cloud-based offerings
Itron DER Optimizer lets distribution system managers at utilities set up, monitor and manage a holistic DER integration solution that includes:
- Analytics tools for EV and solar panel (PV) integrations
- Real-time insights for grid optimization at the edge of the distribution system
- Customer/consumer enrollment into applicable programs and services
- Standardized control of DER assets distributed across the grid, conforming to IEEE 2030.5 control protocols
Itron Grid Edge Optimizer lets grid operations managers at utilities set up, monitor and manage grid operations programs to:
- Monitor voltage levels with intelligent, connected technology with real-time visibility and insights to endpoints in the system
- Gain increased locational awareness of what is happening across the electrical distribution system, at which assets and at what precise location
- Asset management and protection for critical infrastructure such as transformers
- Integrate this technology directly into ADMS
Change the conversation from simply integrating EVs and DERs safely to one that makes them an integral part of your grid’s overall stability.
1Electric Vehicle (EV) Market by Vehicle Type (Passenger Vehicles, LCVs, HCVs, Two-wheelers, e-Scooters & Bikes), Propulsion Type (BEV, FCEV, PHEV, HEV), End Use (Private, Commercial, Industrial), Power Output, Charging Standard, and Geography – Global Forecast to 2027, Meticulous Research, April 2021
2DERs and DERMS platforms take center stage in grid transformation, UtilityDive.com, May 14, 2019
3Infrastructure Report Card 2021: Energy, infrastructurereportcard.org
Stefan Zschiegner is the VP Product Management for the Outcomes business for Itron.