Electrical power has been universally available since decades and while the tech heavy telco sector is struggling retaining their margins, fighting the inevitable commodity, dumb pipe fate and is gradually forced to find new revenues streams innovation, the traditional and commodity driven power sector is forced to innovate for completely different reasons. The result is probably the biggest technology shift since Nikola Tesla and Edisson invented the electric current. Once traditional and archaic, the power producers, TSOs and DSOs are slowly becoming the high tech champions as they implement Smart Grids, the electrical networks of the future.
The underlying reason is really a combination of different trends. There is of course general technology development, IoT, cheaper and more available sensors which provide data not so easily available til now. It is also much easier to transfer bigger amounts of data. The steadily increasing capacity of WDM fiber technology and availability of 4G coverage make it easy to send gigabytes of data practically from anywhere. NB-IoT technology on the other hand reduces the power consumption making it possible to deploy the battery driven sensors capable of sending data over multiple years. IP technology and convergence is also simplifying the traditional technology SCADA stacks, making the sensor data more easily accessible. With more affordable storage, memory, CPU power and technologies like Hadoop, Spark and in memory databases it is now possible to store petabytes of data and analyse it efficiently both with batch processing and streaming techniques.
On the other hand there is climate change and shift to renewable energy electric cars driven by rechargeable batteries or hydrogen a well as plugin hybrids demand more electric power and increase power consumption first of all in peak hours. Wind and solar power is also very difficult to control and the changes in supply have to be quickly compensated by other energy sources like gas turbines. New AMS (Advance Metering Services) power meters provide new possibilities when it comes to more dynamic pricing of energy. It is now possible to affect the consumer behavior by changing the price and moving some of the peak load to time of the day with lower demand for energy. With smart house technology it is also soon possible to control the consumption and cut off water heaters or car chargers instantly. Moreover with use of technology it is easy for the energy providers to predict the energy price changes and gain bigger market this way, which in turn puts the pressure on the TSOs and regulators to develop much more comprehensive and real time models to control the networks (e.g. ENTSO-E Common Grid Model)
The result is that the DSOs, TSOs and producers are simply forced to transition into high tech companies. Using IoT to collect new streams of data that can then be used to better predict the remaining lifetime of the assets or schedule the repair and maintenance more precisely. Using Big Data analytics to predict the faults before they occur and employing machine learning to analyse these huge quantities of data. All of this requires huge amounts of CPU power as well as flexibility and scalability thus pushing the energy sector into use of cloud, BigData (Spark and Hadoop) and other more traditional ways of handling and analysing huge amounts of data like OsiSoft PI. Moreover RDF stores and triple stores is another technology which is getting increasingly important for modeling the networks, analyzing, predicting and planning capacity allocation and managing congestions.
All of this is happening as we speak, take example of FINGRID and their newly completed ELVIS project, or look at the ENTSO-E Common Grid project, Statnett SAMBA project which aims optimizing the asset maintenance as well as AutoDIG which automates fault analysis and condition monitoring. Also Dutch Alliander is known for heavy and successful use of Advanced Analytics.
The last question still remains, is this just a short lasting phenomena or a long term trend and will these trends be enough to transform the power & utilities.
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