The electrical grid is under constant strain and many factors are creating pressure for utilities:
- Electrification and especially the explosive growth of electric vehicles increases demand
- Renewable energy and domestic solar generation are changing the supply side and bringing in new types of electricity sources and altering energy flow directions in networks
- Grid efficiency needs to be improved and losses and downtime minimized
To be able to balance the new, increasingly dynamic supply and demand, utilities are investing in smart grid technologies that allow better monitoring and control of the grids. The need for investments is greatest in the medium-voltage grid which has traditionally been operated in near darkness without visibility to the state and events on the grid.
A fast-growing market
As a result of the growing investment pressure on utilities, the global market for smart grid technology is estimated to grow with a fast CAGR (compound annual growth rate) of nearly 20% for the foreseeable future. By 2026, the value of the market is expected to exceed $100 billion.
The growth is not likely to abate after 2026, either. The world’s population is projected to reach 9 billion by 2050, and as emerging economies continue their rapid industrialization and electrification, there will be an ever-increasing need for smart grids across all geographic regions.
Safegrid – the Intelligent Grid System of the future
Even though the electric grid is a vital system that supports our society and infrastructure, utilities have traditionally had very little visibility into how especially the medium-voltage grid functions. This lack of insight puts utilities at a disadvantage and also makes the grid more vulnerable to overloading and timely repairs more difficult, which, in turn, increases downtime.
Safegrid will be the eyes on the network, bringing the medium-voltage grid to the 21st century.
We work hard to provide utilities with a new way of monitoring the smart grid – our Intelligent Grid System™ helps locate, predict, and prevent grid faults and improve grid performance. The Safegrid product range provides full visibility to the network via a modern cloud-based monitoring and analytics solution, utilizing data from instant-on wireless sensors for both underground and overhead lines.
In this post, we’ll take a closer look at aspects affecting the e-grid while providing insights into the trends in 2022. Further, we discuss some key technologies impacts.
Artificial intelligence is coming.
As the grids get smarter and exponentially more data is captured from them (with, e.g. smart sensors like Safegrid’s), AI and machine learning are becoming indispensable in turning the vast amounts of raw data into actionable insights.
Traditional FPI systems have worked in the low kilohertz range meaning the amounts of data have been relatively limited. As e.g. Safegrid’s sensors operate with higher frequencies and can capture even fleeting transients; the cloud-based ML capabilities of the Gridguardian backend are crucial.
The role of AI in understanding demand and generating predictions from non-dispatchable resources (i.e. resources that cannot be turned on or off at will) such as wind or solar can be an essential asset to the electricity industry. It also has a lot more potential than we currently see, with artificial intelligence playing critical roles, including helping reduce outages by understanding how changes affect other parts.
AI will continue evolving over time, and it is vital those advances are incorporated into network monitoring and solutions to improve them even further over time.
Customer behavior in the near future
With improved technology, data can be shared in real-time so that suppliers can provide consumers with more information on their electricity prices and requirements. This will allow utilities to plan generation systems for maximum benefit while increasing profits through increased efficiency.
New technologies also enable energy companies worldwide to monitor consumption rates from different areas, which helps them figure out how much fuel is needed when low rainfall or high winds are expected due to unexpected weather events – again with the support of AI-based systems.
Operational efficiency needs to increase
Demand may exceed supply in peak times of electricity consumption. Peak shaving is a practice where consumers try to maximize their use during these periods by scheduling appliances like dishwashers and clothes washers/dryers so that they can run simultaneously without interruption. Still, less than 20% of people have been reported to follow this advice.
As changing people’s habits is challenging and time-consuming, we need to apply technological innovations to increase operational efficiency.
Sustainability and the increase of renewable energy.
The smart grid is a crucial component in incorporating renewable energy sources like solar, wind, and hydrogen into the power system. Increasing use of renewables and other non-traditional generation methods forces the power system to move towards a more decentralized model and distributed generators (DGs) are integrated into the existing power grid to address the global climate change and energy consumption & production revolution.
The change in generation capability will be massive and renewables will also grow at a staggering pace: the International Energy Agency predicts solar to surpass coal and gas as the primary source of capacity by 2035.
These developments create a need for a next-generation grid that demands rich, real-time measurement data powered by AI&ML based analytics
The e-grid trend in the USA
The US has an aging grid infrastructure that requires massive investments to keep up with the increasing renewable energy production capability. Furthermore, the growing damage caused by catastrophic wildfires creates an urgent need to upgrade grids and grid monitoring and management systems.
The e-grid trend in Europe
There are nearly 5000 electric utilities in Europe, with over 10 million kilometers of medium voltage lines in operations.
While the wildfire threat is not quite as significant as in the US, the European grid also requires investments in new technologies: the infrastructure is old, networks are undersized, and they do not accommodate the fast growth in renewables generation.
The e-grid trend in China
The Chinese economy is growing fast again after the COVID-induced slowdown. The drive to become a global manufacturing hub under China’s ‘One belt One road’ initiative further accelerates the growth in electricity demand. In 2021, for instance, the electricity consumption in China grew 10.3%, accounting for nearly half of the total increase in global electricity consumption.
While China has invested heavily in its Ultra-High Voltage grid, many UHV lines are running at just a bit more than 60% of their design capacity due to, e.g., technological limits and issues with power generators, grid companies, and the MV grid.
Safegrid – helping utilities achieve visibility and efficiency
From reducing wildfire risks to increasing weather resilience to providing better visibility, Safegrid works hard to help utilities answer the challenges posed by new technologies and regulations, and serve their customers even better and more efficiently. We look forward to working with utilities and our partners to enable a better grid for the 21st century!