The new power source is data: Powering the utility evolution with intelligent analytics
In a relatively short time, electrical utilities have undergone a radical transformation — and it’s far from over. Traditional models of power generation and distribution are decentralizing. New technologies are evolving everything from energy storage to consumption management. Renewable energy sources are coming online in growing numbers, operated not only by utilities but also by businesses and consumers producing their own power and either using it or selling it back to the grid.
Every single one of these has data associated with it — and valuable opportunities associated with that data. This is why utilities aren’t just utilities anymore. They’re becoming powerful data companies that are leveraging analytics to intelligently guide their evolution to smarter, more responsive and automated grids that interconnect, generation sites and storage sites, deeply engage consumers and support new types of energy services such as for-profit electric vehicle charging stations and more.
Distribute the intelligence for a distributed power grid
As complexity increases and more and more intelligence is needed to manage it, many utilities have started to talk about developing “neural networks” modeled on the human brain to manage their operations. Just like in the brain or human nervous system, a hallmark of these neural networks is that the intelligence within them would be distributed — existing not just in a single, centralized place but available anywhere quick action is required to optimize performance and maintain security. (There will also be centralized points for monitoring and coordinating activities.)
These cognitive networks will allow utilities to harness all the data they’re generating and leverage relevant subsets of it with machine learning and analytics for new levels of safety, more effective asset management and highly accurate predictive maintenance — enhancing utility operations and bringing the goal of zero grid faults within reach. This kind of intelligent network must provide three specific things:
- Real-time data: Anywhere, anytime data gathering in real-time based on sensors, user inputs, video feeds and more.
- Local computing: The capability to process information rapidly wherever insights are needed to drive action. The actions themselves may be automated with alerts pushed as checks and balances to skilled teams of people.
- Security: Cyber protections to preserve the overall integrity of the grid and protect customer privacy.
Utilities around the world are taking steps to build these kinds of networks, leveraging 4G/5G private wireless technologies to provide the required connectivity, bandwidth and low-latencies. Nokia is working with Iberdrola-Elektro in Brazil to establish a 5G ready private LTE (P-LTE) network with the reach and speed to improve the performance of Elektro’s grid, enable faster problem-solving, support network evolution, and allow for the full range of Internet of Things (IoT) services.
With the right architecture and connectivity, utilities can become true “data kings”, moving beyond mere generation and distribution to roll out new services for the new energy future. At Nokia, we provide not only the wireless connectivity utilities need for intelligent networks but also the underlying architecture — what we call the Nokia Bell Labs Future X architecture — to enable the complete, deep, responsive network intelligence utilities are seeking.
To learn more about this topic we invite you to view the following webinar titled:
Visit Nokia at Utilities Analytics Week Oct 23-25, 2019.
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