The intelligent utility of the future | #eBizInsights | Dr. Cathy Pickering |Podcast


For years, technology has promised to revolutionise the power sector. While
smart grids have been implemented in many countries, the Internet of Things
(IoT) devices and digital control solutions promise to be the enabler of the
intelligent utility.

Dr Cathy Pickering, Solution Architect at FuseForward, says that the
intelligent utility of the future makes power generation, distribution, and
management more responsive to the needs of the communities it serves. The
intelligent utility of the future will also allow for more power to be
generated from smaller, more agile renewable energy sources.

“The utility of the future, the intelligent utility, will be made up of
centralised, regional, community and home power plants. The addition and
integration of a multitude of smaller plants will not only ensure that
capacity grows alongside the development of the communities that need to be
serviced, but that those communities will get more consistent and reliable
power. The cost saving potential for utilities is huge, from both a
distribution and a generation perspective,” she explains.

“The intelligent utility can be thought of as two interconnected systems:
Intelligent dynamic power generation and distribution systems, and a
distributed cloud-based grid management system—both enabled by IoT. The IoT
devices continually feed data into the cloud-based grid management system.
This information can be analysed in real-time to provide automated control
of the system. For example, predictive algorithms could be used to increase
or decrease the power generated based on predicted demand.”

While this vision might seem some time away from becoming a reality,
Pickering says that the intelligent utility is already in development. “One
of the research projects we are involved in has already established the
effectiveness of the conceptual model, and is showing good results in
dynamic control.”

Working with academic institutions in Canada, FuseForward has set up the
Intelligent Systems Research Network. The network is comprised of
professionals with an interest in the application of big data in various
areas, and is actively working to develop intelligent IoT and big data
solutions that bridge the gap between academia, industry and technology.

The network’s current research activities cover all aspects of analytics
for industrial campuses and building portfolios, including streaming data
management, real-time facility analytics, and automated control. A current
research project focuses on applying Artificial Intelligence (AI) and
Machine Learning (ML) to energy management on a university campus in Canada,
as well as the development of algorithms and AI integration for deep
learning and integrating user behaviour.

“The research and predictive models developed so far have resulted in the
decrease in the use of energy by the HVAC systems and 30% power savings on
the university campus. The research involves calculating dynamic set points
and providing dynamic control of the HVAC systems using machine learning
methods,” Pickering says.

“The smart campus research and the conceptual model being developed informs
the intelligent utility research and the development of the intelligent
utility. The outcome of the smart campus research will facilitate power
utilities to get started with the intelligent utility. The intelligent
utility model requires that a distribution management system is overlaid on
the power distribution grid. Further research is underway regarding methods
to deal with the dynamic power supply, how to govern the distribution of
power and optimise its usage.”

She adds that over and above the technology there are a number of other
factors that need to be taken into consideration in the implementation of
the intelligent utility, including regulatory and financial considerations.
“As new technologies become more mainstream, and as an increasing percentage
of power is generated from renewable sources, the benefits of the
intelligent utility will far outweigh any potential challenges. The
intelligence to predict demand and provision as required is a capability
that utilities currently don’t have, and that alone is enough to start the
shift to the utility of the future,” Pickering concludes.

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