Technology and digital business trends are pushing utilities to adopt smart grid initiatives that will improve grid resilience, integrate consumers into energy markets and enable new energy provisioning models driven by sector digitalization. We examine the resulting challenges and opportunities.
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- Figure 1. Smart Grid Key Initiative Overview
Source: Gartner (April 2014)
The smart grid is a future vision of a delivery infrastructure with improved resilience and efficiency, which integrates consumers into new energy provisioning models enabled by sector digitalization.
Utilities must make their networks more visible and controllable to help make the grid "smarter" and better able to address upcoming challenges — for example, to increase the percentage of renewable sources, accommodate energy technology consumerization and support new sustainable energy provisioning models. This will involve:
Transforming networks into geodesic structures that intersperse a variety of distributed energy resources — some of which will be owned and operated by consumers.
Establishing new digital business models and enterprise processes that can cope with broader and deeper systems — systems that will extend all the way from asset-centric operation technology environments and utility back offices into the customer premises, and even into everyday household appliances.
Integrating information, operational, communication and consumer technologies, which will be crucial to establishing and maintaining system stability and resilience, while enabling new energy supply models.
Utilities should consider the following when getting started with smart grid initiatives:
Smart grid projects will pose a variety of integration challenges. While some vendors have foreseen this, their offerings and domain expertise vary significantly.
For consumers, the need to transform the way how energy is supplied is not yet a front-of-mind issue. As it becomes so, and cost and consequences become visible, anticipate resistance.
The costs to communicate and educate consumers, regulators and policymakers when undertaking capital projects will be significant and must be factored in.
Because many initiatives will be "groundbreaking," confidence for energy utility IT functions will be low.
Unclear investment recovery and immaturity of the technology and standards make smart grid technology selection risky. Ensure that your solution is flexible and able to address future needs.