Targeting grid resilience with digitalisation


New solutions for a digital grid are being pioneered by Gridspertise building on Enel’s positioning over two decades at the forefront of advances.

As countries the world over pursue net-zero goals, the power grids are at the centre of a transformation that will ultimately lead to economy-wide decarbonisation impacting almost every aspect of life, from the way we power and run our homes to how we travel and the products we purchase.

This decarbonisation demands above all a grid that is robust, resilient, and reliable, able to withstand both the internal impacts of constantly changing demand and supply patterns and bidirectional power flows as well as external impacts such as extreme weather events.

Starting from meters, the first smart, intelligent communication devices, the ‘digital grid’, with digitalisation at its core, has evolved with emerging OT and IT solutions and a growing understanding of the impacts on utility operations.

US grid investments

The United States grid, notable for its complexity and extent, like others, stands on an ageing and imperfect infrastructure, but a series of foresightful decisions have propelled it as a global leader in the deployment of smart metering and smart grid technologies.

The latest annual assessments of smart metering, for example, estimate the number approaching 100 million, corresponding to a national penetration of two-thirds, while North American utilities are continuing to lead in smart grid development.

However, despite these achievements, much remains incomplete. Smart metering varies markedly across the country and among customer classes and many sources record North American utilities to be lagging in their maturity in supply reliability.

With its commitment to ambitious climate targets – to reduce net greenhouse gas emissions 50-52% below 2005 levels by 2030 and reach 100% clean electricity by 2035 – an integrated strategy of investment, innovation, and new technology deployment is needed across the system for generation, transmission, and distribution.

To accomplish this, the US administration has allocated approximately $500 billion to fund the development of new infrastructure over the next five years, through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act in the framework of the Build Back Better Act.

The power distribution networks are often the least visible side of the electricity system, but with the connection of much of the new distributed energy resources (DERs), they are on track to undergo a major modernisation and digitalisation to enhance resilience, improve reliability, better integrate renewable generation and contain electricity costs.

Grid resilience and reliability

Grid resilience has been associated in the last few years with the transformation of the infrastructure to withstand the increasingly more frequent and severe weather events that have impacted the US due to changes in climate patterns.

In many parts of the country, the electricity system has been affected by hurricanes, wildfires, or thunderstorms, leading to outages lasting in some cases for days.

According to US federal data, there were more than 180 major disruptions in 2020, compared with fewer than two dozen in 2000.

But resilience today means more than adapting power infrastructures to climate change. In many parts of the US, utilities are no longer the dominant producers of electricity as generation from DERs such as rooftop solar, customer-sited energy storage and electric vehicles has increased exponentially, thanks in large part to the 2035 emissions goal.

This growth is supported by a change in electricity customer needs and expectations and their interest in reducing energy bills and the effective integration of the DERs requiring visibility to and controllability by the distribution grid operator at the local level.

Moreover, the American Society of Civil Engineers has found that almost three-quarters of the transmission and distribution lines are old, already in the second half of their expected 50-year lifespan.

The need to modernise the grid’s core components is thus vital. When smart technologies are in place, power outages can be avoided and lives, homes, and businesses are protected.

Digital solutions for grid resilience

Gridspertise, a new company born out of Enel, the world’s largest privately-owned operator of power distribution grids with more than 20 years of expertise in the field, is ready to contribute significantly to this plan.

Gridspertise provides access to cutting-edge digital solutions for the transformation of electricity distribution networks in three main areas: metering and grid edge digitalisation, network infrastructure digitalisation, and field operations digitalisation.

In the past months, Gridspertise has announced the signing of thirteen agreements for more than 670,000 smart meters and over 150,000 field devices and accessories with 12 DSOs across three countries in Europe, Italy, Malta, and San Marino.

Gridspertise also has launched the QEd – Quantum Edge® device as an all-in-one edge solution that virtualises key grid functionalities through customisable applications. The QEd leverages Qualcomm Technologies’ industrial-grade IoT solutions featuring the latest 5G, compute, security, and AI capabilities and is the first in collaboration to jointly develop new solutions with a focus on the US market needs.

“Strategic partnerships enable us to promote a leap forward in network infrastructure digitalisation for utilities all around the world, combining the most advanced technologies designed by Gridspertise with those developed by its ecosystem of partners,” comments CEO Robert Denda.

Gridspertise will participate in Distributech International in Dallas from 23-25 May 2022 as a sponsor, opening the event with an introductory speech at the Breakfast Roundtable and showcasing its expertise in grid edge digital solutions for grid resilience at its booth.

Gridspertise’s cloud and edge solutions and services include:
Metering and grid edge digitalisation: Reliable, advanced, and interactive metering solutions that allow grid efficiency and customer engagement. Solutions include smart meters devices, data management software, and low voltage grid analytics.
Network infrastructure digitalisation: Smart grid solutions to enhance resiliency, efficiency, and sustainability, as well as boost the quality of service. Examples include integrated solutions for grid operations, from grid monitoring to remote control, automation, electrical flow and flexibility management of distributed resources, and disruptive technologies such as the QEd – Quantum Edge® device.
Field operations digitalisation: Digital solutions and devices, such as the Network Digital Twin® and Weather Alerting and Forecasting, to streamline field operations, reducing response time and increasing worker safety.

We look forward to connecting with US utilities and establishing new partnerships to accelerate your electric future.