Internet of Things between convergence and active energy demand

Livio Gallo, Head of Global Infrastructure and Networks, ENEL discusses the growth of Internet of Things.
Published: Thu 26 May 2016

We are living in an era characterised by extremely rapid technological change bringing about new economic, environmental and social challenges. Among the main megatrends having a deep impact on infrastructure are urbanisation, environmental sustainability and digitalisation.

By 2050, more than 70% of the world’s population will live in cities, with a huge number of these people living in megacities that will span hundreds of kilometres and house hundreds of millions of people. As a result of this urbanisation, new disciplines like urban ecology have been created in order to face new challenges, and the ecological footprint of human activity has been placed under the microscope.

A second megatrend that is affecting modern society is environmental sustainability, which is driving a raft of policy decisions in western countries, with the European Commission for example pushing towards a green, decarbonised economy by 2050. In the energy sector, the growth rate of renewable power generation sources that, in Italy, are already able to fulfil half of peak demand, is mirroring this trend. Finally, there is digitalisation. We are living in exponential times: ever since Intel co-founder Gordon Moore said that information and communication technologies (ICT) double their capabilities every two years, ICT has followed this trend and it is expected that by 2020 trillions of smart devices will be available to billions of people, with an average number of 1,000 smart devices per person. In this scenario, an essential element which will drive future developments of infrastructures is convergence.

We are bearing witness to a huge convergence between operational technologies (OT) and information technologies (IT). As a consequence, network operators are increasingly driving the creation of new customer services, empowering customers and giving them an active role in the energy market. Accordingly, network operators are working to facilitate the convergence of energy, transportation and telecom infrastructures. In this rapidly changing environment, the operations of infrastructures have to be re-thought in order to make the most of the opportunities provided by these trends and the Internet of Things (IoT) plays a key role in this scenario.

Enel IoT ecosystem

At Enel the Internet of Things is already a reality at grid level: we have millions of sensors and actuators in our power grids that constantly communicate with our IT and OT systems. Enel is a recognised pioneer in the utility sector, as it started moving towards the Internet of Things back in 2001 with the introduction of the world’s first smart metering system. That year, Enel started the five-year Telegestore Project in Italy, in which it invested 2.1 billion euros in installing smart meters across its customer base of 32 million household and business delivery points.

More than 7,000 people were involved in the production and installation of the meters, with more than 30,000 meters installed on average every day, ensuring the highest level of quality and performance. The implementation of Enel’s AMM (Automated Meter Management) system, the largest ever, was completed in 2006, with all the 32 million meters remotely managed and controlled. Currently, this system collects more than 400 million monthly readings and performs more than 10 million remote operations.

This has also led to Enel reducing its operational expenditure by 450 million euros per year, savings that are reflected in the final customer’s bills. The system also enables the possibility of involving the final customer, increasing its awareness of energy consumption and enabling advanced services that target energy efficiency. In order to exploit these new opportunities Enel developed the Smart Info device that gives the customer easy and secure access to metering data. This device is connected to a power socket in the customer’s home, collects real-time metering data from the smart meter and makes it available to the customer through a standard interface that implements an open protocol.

Replicable smart meter model

Following the extremely positive experience in Italy, Enel has developed a new generation of AMM solutions that adopt the innovative communication Meters and More protocol, an open technology available to anyone that wants to use it. Since the launch of the smart meter project in June 2010, the Enel Group’s Spanish subsidiary Endesa, has successfully installed and managed nearly seven million smart meters, with the aim of reaching 13 million meters by 2018.

Currently, Enel’s smart metering has been implemented in many other countries around the world, as well as in pilot projects prior to massive deployments carried out successfully in more than 20 different utilities worldwide. Another huge step in the implementation of the Internet of Things was the launch of the Remote Control and Automation project in Italy, which late last decade aimed to improve quality of service.

The implementation of innovative techniques enabled real-time monitoring and remote control of the distribution network’s most important nodes, alongside solutions that automatically isolate faulty sections and resupply healthy ones. The project is one of the world’s largest of its type; it involves 2,500 HV/MV primary substations and 110,000 MV/LV secondary substations (out of about 425,000), all remote controlled by 28 control centres, as well as the 50,000 MV fault detectors installed in the substations.

Remote control combined with automation has led to automatic local fault detection and self-fixing of those faults, have significantly improved the average time needed to perform the first fault selection and isolation attempt, supported by field crews, cutting it down from 50 minutes to less than four minutes. As a result of these innovative solutions, the System Average Interruption Duration Index (SAIDI) between 2001 and 2012 improved by 68%, while the distribution tariff paid by the final customer was reduced by more than 30% in nominal terms

Trailblazer in EV technology

In addition, Enel is a trailblazer in the deployment of technology necessary for smart electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure, particularly in order to minimise electricity grid investments, by allowing EV customers access to demand response programmes for EV charging. Enel’s charging stations are additional smart devices that are remotely managed and controlled in real-time, which also enables advanced smart charging and vehicle-togrid solutions.

Due to white certificate incentives and corporate tax discounts related to the purchase of EVs, the EV fleet market can be expected to dominate electric mobility in Europe (the fleet market currently accounts for more than 30% of Italian EV sales) and a realistic time to market for such demand response programmes for EV charging exists for fleet operators as service customers. This means that corporate fleets are suitable for these applications, as fleet operators can take advantage of a load modulation scheme controlled by precise boundary conditions in order to reduce the running operational cost of the EV fleet.

A final step forward in the digitalisation of Enel’s assets has been the development of the Archilede Active Control System, a new platform for the remote control and management of street lighting infrastructure that turns street lights into smart components within the Internet of Things. This new solution, in addition to increased efficiency in energy consumption, enables support of smart city services through the integration of smart sensors or devices installed in streetlights that provide advanced services to local authorities, like pollution and noise monitoring, provision of useful information or CCTV monitoring.

Taking advantage of its role as Smart Energy Partner at Expo Milano 2015, Enel implemented all of these innovative grid solutions at the Expo, developing an innovative platform designed to collect all data provided by those field devices and then convey all that information. The final goal of this energy management system (EMS) is to perform smart monitoring of field actuators, increasing the flexibility of the grid – which is key to the optimising grid efficiency, maximising the integration of renewables and fulfilling customer needs. EMS is also suitable for management of microgrids, which enables the implementation of all the functionalities and services provided by a smart grid also in areas not yet reached by such a grid.

Join the IT/OT debate, check out our IoT In Focus series for insights from EDP, Intel, Advantech, S&C Electric, Alliander, Advantech, Duke Energy, National Grid, Schneider Electric, Space Time Insight and more

Customer engagement

The implementation of all these IoT solutions offers obvious benefits to customers, such as increased awareness of their energy consumption, supporting dynamic load management and finally promoting a more active role for the customer. Within new smart grid solutions, consumers’ demand becomes “active”, as it can be managed in line with network conditions, making it a viable option for addressing electricity system challenges such as improving efficiency and reliability, increasing penetration of renewable energy, infrastructure planning and the deferring of investments. Many concrete examples of the customer’s new active role are already in field.

Enel’s smart meters have been designed to allow end users to have real-time access to certified information on electricity data, which can be displayed on different visualisation interfaces (in home displays, PC, smartphones, etc.) One of the main features of the e-mobility recharging infrastructure developed by Enel is smart charging, which allows recharging processes to be flexible according to customer needs, offers real-time grid status updates and both current and forecasted renewable energy production.

Given that a new generation of affordable, high-performance and long-range electric cars is coming, new technologies will help further spread the use of electric vehicles, leading to a significant reduction in emissions and an improved quality of life, especially in urban environments. For this reason, the Enel Group is constantly working on the creation of innovative e-mobility solutions. Enel has developed and installed an innovative smart recharging infrastructure which has been in part enabled by the smart metering infrastructure created by Enel, used by millions of customers in Europe.

Apart from providing the basic end-user services related to the EV charging process, Enel’s charging points also provide additional features through online smart management ensured by the Electric Mobility Management system (EMM). EMM supplies a range of value-added services, including charging point location and booking, billing, consumption monitoring, network planning and asset management.

This article was originally published in Metering International