Utilities Take Journey Towards Digital Integration

EDP Distribuição’s Inovgrid and UK Power Networks’ Low Carbon London projects envision the Optimized Network Utility.
Published: Thu 02 Apr 2015

The Optimized Network Utility (ONU) is CGI’s response to the significant business transition that utilities are facing as they move to a carbon-based energy system, Nigel Spooner, CGI’s vice president, global utilities, told participants in an Engerati webinar. [Engerati-The Optimized Network Utility - the journey towards digital integration]

Matching supply and demand

In particular transmission and distribution networks need to adapt to different ways of matching supply and demand in the new system.

“The ONU is based on three mindsets,” explains Spooner. “Firstly, in seeing the grid as a collection of related entities rather than functional siloes. Secondly, in realizing that there is no instant fix to the challenges that are faced. And thirdly, in recognizing the power of comprehensive digital connections to bring all the components together.”

Notably the ONU concept, which envisions a holistic approach to smart grids, was developed closely with clients and business partners. Among these are UK Power Networks as part of the Low Carbon London project in UK, and Energias de Portugal as part of the Inovgrid project in Portugal, both of which are reviewed in the webinar.

Low Carbon London focused on 2025 energy targets

The Low Carbon London project, which was supported by the UK government through the Low Carbon Networks Fund, was designed to test a wide range of concepts and technologies ultimately aimed to achieve London’s 2025 energy targets. These are 25% production of London’s energy from distributed energy resources and a 60% reduction in the CO2 levels from 1990 levels.

Spooner says that CGI provided its Smart Data Service, which was used for managing initially 6,000 smart meters – and which currently supports approximately 600,000 smart meters deployed across UK. Other technologies trialled included electric vehicles and heat pumps. The project also included the development and trialling of Britain’ first wind twinning tariff at 1,000 homes (encouraging consumers to use energy at times of high wind production) and the development of numerous active demand response sites.

“All of these things are moving us towards the establishment of what we call a ‘distribution system operator’,” says Spooner. “This is subtly different from a distribution network operator, and relates very closely to our vision of the ONU.”

The 4-year project, which wound up in December 2014, cost £28 million but achieved savings of approximately £43 million, which will be passed on to UK Power Networks customers, Spooner stated.

Inovgrid addresses LV grid challenges

Also participating in the webinar was Paulo Libano Monteiro, director - Inovgrid Solution Development at EDP Distribuição, who described the company’s Inovgrid smart grid solution.

Monteiro explains that Inovgrid was founded on the fact that EDP Distribuição wanted to be an active player in the changing electrical system value chain with the development of distributed generation and the new role of the prosumer with the introduction of new services.

“The value chain is changing mainly at the level of the distribution grid and we had to find a new way to meet the new challenges,” says Monteiro. “Inovgrid leverages on smart metering and supports a holistic view of the electrical system.”

The first implementation of Inovgrid took place in the historical city of Évora in southern Portugal, with deployment of more than 30,000 EDP Boxes (i.e. smart meters) to customers and 340 DTCs, along with other technologies such as microgeneration and EV charging infrastructure. A well visited showroom to showcase the solution was also implemented.

“In Évora we demonstrated an average 3.9% reduction in energy consumption, relevant reductions in commercial and technical losses, and that a large majority of field operations could be handled remotely,” says Monteiro. “As a result, Inovgrid has been selected as a reference case for cost-benefit analyses of smart grid projects in Europe.”

Since the completion of the project in 2012 the Inovgrid technology has been expanded to more than 100,000 customers in six other locations. The ultimate aim is to cover all 6 million customers across Portugal.

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