Energy Management Enters a New Era
Synergies between the Smart Grid, government initiatives on renewable energy and energy efficiency, and the potential impacts of electric vehicles are creating a new era for energy management professionals. The static, one-way energy flow model of the past 100 years is rapidly evolving into a more dynamic model characterized by two-way flow of both energy and information.
Changes in the energy paradigm are the result of societal and political trends that are driving a greener and sustainable consumer culture that rewards a more proactive approach from electric utilities and may even provide opportunities for electric utilities to benefit from an information-based business model.
On one hand, public sentiment on green technologies and renewable sources of energy has been growing deeper and wider since the first Earth Day in 1970. On the other, the price of crude oil and potential instabilities in oil producing regions of the world have given greater credibility and urgency to calls for US energy independence. In the US, these forces culminated in the Department of Energy’s goal of providing 20% of the nation’s energy from renewable sources by 2030.
It is generally acknowledged that a combination of Smart Grid solutions, energy storage—including storage in electric vehicles—and far more granular or distributed energy management are among the key technologies that will be required the meet these goals. These new technologies will also enable enhanced consumer participation in the management of their electricity usage.
Distributed energy resources (DER), including distributed generation, demand response and energy storage, coupled with the deployment of intelligent devices, including smart meters, distribution automation, and advanced sensors, will bring a new level of complexity to the management of the electric grid. The requirement for advanced grid self-healing capabilities to minimize customer downtime will require more knowledge about the real-time connectivity and performance of the grid.
The devil is in the details, however, and industry, its customers, and various industry associations are working on a comprehensive solution. Some important elements have already been put in place. The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) for example, last year ratified its IEEE 1815 Distributed Network Protocol (DNP3) standard for electric power systems communications.
Distributed energy management will lead to a more cooperative ecosystem management between the grid and the end use customer(s). IEEE 1815 already makes this possible by optimizing information gathering, exchange, and use of electrical energy, particularly in supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems. It preserves infrastructure investments that have been made by utilities by remaining compatible with existing object models and it has already become an important building block for early adopters in both the utility and private sectors for energy efficiency and demand response programs.
The next generation of distribution energy management will require enhanced integration between traditional utility SCADA, Distribution Management and Outage Management, and potentially extend into building and home automation management systems. This will enable coordinated analysis and control of active distribution networks for large-scale deployment and adoption of distributed energy resources.
Distributed intelligence is clearly beneficial for the Smart Grid because centrally managing an ever-changing conglomeration of utility, private, and consumer energy resources would be an all-but-impossible task. Somewhat unexpectedly, it also represents an opportunity for utility customers to become more proactive in the management of their consumption and generation through the adoption of virtual power plants and microgrids. Advantages of this include:
- Assuring their own energy viability in the brave new world of renewable energy;
- Optimizing their energy costs per kilowatt-hour; and
- Acquiring a new revenue stream.
Among the critically important functions for managing a microgrid are:
* Grid Analysis and Optimization: Power flow and power quality analysis to understand the grid’s current state and forecast future states, and the ability to change the grid state through feeder reconfiguration for dynamic load balancing and fault isolation. This should be capable of supporting a fully unbalanced model and of solving both radial and meshed grids.
* Load Forecasting: Enhanced estimation and modeling of load sources for network optimization of current and future state.
* Distributed Energy Resource (DER) Dispatching: Scheduling and dispatching of distributed generation resources to match current and forecasted load, which could also include potential economic market signals.
The new era of energy management will be characterized by two-way flow of energy and information, and the integration of distributed energy resources. Distributed and coordinated intelligence throughout the grid will be key to managing this complexity and the most likely implementation path will include a new generation of integration standards to enable the adoption of distributed intelligence and microgrids. The IEEE and other standards organizations are working diligently to enable this through comprehensive consultation of various stakeholders.
Author's Bio: Avnaesh Jayantilal is a Senior Member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, and a member of the International Electrotechnical Commission.