Edge Computing is Fueling Energy’s Smart Tech Revolution

22 May 2020 | 437 Shares

The energy industry is undergoing significant transformation. The utility grid is moving from a legacy one-way structure to a dynamic, predictive, data-driven network.

Simultaneously, the growth in renewable energy technology is driving even more transformation in the electric utilities industry. Renewables now deliver 33% of global energy1 and the power capacity of renewables is set to double between 2019 and 20242.

Consumers are becoming ‘prosumers’ – shaping their own utility needs and demanding that renewable energy choices be part of their electricity options. These demands are about the delivery of reliable and secure renewable power and will help grow the smart microgrid by $39.1bn by 20233.

With the transition to a two-way flow grid and the ongoing growth of renewable energy, there is a heightened need for the industry to address legacy infrastructure and to innovate. Ageing electric grid systems are becoming increasingly volatile4, creating a need for modernization to reduce both cost and risk to improve security.

Technology and digital transformation are key to modernization in the energy industry. All energy businesses need to become digital businesses, and for the energy industry there are four key digital transformation goals:

  • Drive customer experience
  • Mitigate risk/improve safety
  • Increase reliability and operational efficiency
  • Build new revenue models

Central to digital transformation is the need to be empowered by data – data that is captured and analyzed at the edge of the operations network. Edge computing expands our digital capabilities by enhancing our ability to analyze data and act in real time.

According to Forrester5, one of the key use cases for Edge computing in the energy industry is in distribution automation. From the Forrester research, 84% of utilities companies are either implementing or planning to implement Edge IoT enabled distribution automation of electricity or water.

Automated distribution is one of three key areas opportunities in Edge computing for Utilities, along with grid modernization and analytics at the Edge.

Digitalization of distribution

Modernization of the electricity infrastructure through digitalization will deliver enhanced intelligence, increased resiliency, significantly improved security and the ability to digitally integrate across the grid. Through the application of Edge and IoT devices, energy companies can measure, monitor and manage energy seamlessly. Smart devices can collect data from diverse sources, and advanced analytics can now be performed at the point of data collection. The insights derived from Edge analytics can then drive automated decisions to ensure grid stability and safety in real time.

We are seeing the emergence of new substation technology platforms that are driving grid modernization and are helping to improve existing Edge-based operations. Machine virtualization is the foundation of these platforms, which delivers increased grid reliability and system resilience. Substation platforms help to reduce overall costs, improve safety and enhance cybersecurity.

Grid modernization

Historically, grid operators used past demand data to forecast future need and to balance supply and demand. Technology has evolved to allow for two-way communication between the utility and its customers, enabling the energy provider to predict problems and deploy resources accordingly. Cutting edge grid modernization platforms mean that utilities can manage increasingly complex distribution networks efficiently and cost effectively. Coupled with Edge computing and analytics, the platform can be used to accurately forecast energy demand and facilitate changes to the grid in real-time.

Driving Intelligence – Analytics at the Edge

In order to drive reliability and operational efficiency, utility companies now need to leverage advanced distribution analysis. Delivering analytics at the Edge means that the energy industry can use data in a far more effective and efficient way. Analytics at the Edge enables utility companies to predict and prevent problems in real time, to cost-effectively deploy resources and personnel, and to increase overall grid optimization, security and reliability.

One of the advantages of Edge and IoT Technology, is that it drives the creation of ‘smart’ solutions for utility companies. Smart computer vision cameras – fixed or attached to drones – with machine learning capabilities can inspect assets and run algorithms to analyze their condition. From a safety perspective, these hi-tech cameras can monitor facilities or substations to identify anomalies, safety concerns or anything that poses a threat.

Combining Edge and IoT can help create a smart grid, enabling the utility to effectively and efficiently manage supply and demand. On the customer side, smart meters work in combination with the smart grid to deliver valuable knowledge of domestic and commercial energy use. Creating this smart awareness of usage and waste, customers can now see and manage their energy use in real time.

Smart technology can be used to heighten energy security. Cyber security at the Edge can protect against cyberattacks and malware, and smart analytics can detect unwanted actions, report anomalies and trigger responses to immediately isolate unauthorized activity. This is all part of the overall move to digitalize the grid, which has ‘virtualization’ as its foundation. The benefits of this modernization are numerous: reduced cost, increased reliability, reduced wiring, self-diagnostics and improved security.

Dell Technologies has been working with electricity utility companies on driving transformation for more than 20 years. Together with its partners and customers, Dell Technologies is delivering digital transformation focused on full grid modernization solutions from the Edge to the Data Center. These solutions are built on advanced distribution management platforms, integrated standard substation automation platforms and a utility security compliance framework for improved cyber security protection.

To find out how Dell Technologies is helping to transform organizations through Edge technology please visit: www.delltechnologies.com/Edge and for a more detailed look at its security solutions: www.delltechnologies.com/iot-safetysecurity-solution. Dell Technologies has recently released a detailed whitepaper ‘Utilities at The Edge’ and a webinar on ‘Powering a Modern Platform for Utilities’.

By 2024, energy utilities will be investing a massive $15bn in Edge, IoT and robotics technologies6. It is critical for utility companies to find the right technology partner to help them meet the challenges and harness the opportunities and value of modernization and transformation.

1Renewable Energy Now Accounts for a Third of Global Power Capacity Irena International renewable Energy Agency https://www.irena.org/newsroom/pressreleases/2019/Apr/Renewable-Energy-Now-Accounts-for-a-Third-of-Global-Power-Capacity Or U.S. ONLY Stat: Renewables set to generate 35% of U.S. electricity. Growing from 7.5TWH in 2019 to 9.8TWH in 2024. https://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.php?id=42497

2The power capacity of renewables is set to double between 2019-2024. https://www.iea.org/news/global-solar-pv-market-set-for-spectacular-growth-over-next-5-years. Report forecasts an increase of 1,200 gigawatts – equivalent to the current total power capacity of the United States.

3The overall micro grid market is expected to be valued at USD 39.10 billion by 2023, growing at a CAGR of 11.97% between 2018 and 2023. Stat taken from Strategic Initiatives in Power Generation/Opportunities in Power Grid Infrastructure – Intel doc.

4Complexity in energy supply is affecting the reliability of the power grid. The grid loses power 285 percent more often today than in 1984. https://www.lexingtoninstitute.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/Tomorrows-Electrical-Power-Grid.pdf

5Forrester, IoT Deployment Is Driving Analytics To The Edge, 2019.

6By 2024 energy utilities will invest substantially in Edge, IoT and Robotics Technologies. Source taken from Page 8 Dell Tech Energy Electricity Renewables Sept 2019.