The Infosys Utilities Blog seeks to discuss and answer the industry’s burning Smart Grid questions through the commentary of the industry’s leading Smart Grid and Sustainability experts. This blogging community offers a rich source of fresh new ideas on the planning, design and implementation of solutions for the utility industry of tomorrow.

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April 25, 2018

The Only Constant is Change - the Water Cycle

There has a move back towards catchment based working for a number of years, and this has brought many advantages, especially in regard to environmental improvements. Generally however such working tends to be sector and company based. Although there have been a few cross sector studies and solutions, these are the exception rather than the rule.

There are a number of disruptive factors, such as the European Water Framework Directive, that are increasingly moving organisations towards multi sector and company integrated catchment solutions. There are already many studies that are pin-pointing pollution, both point source and diffuse, and moving solutions towards beneficial outcomes and away from 'tick box' outputs. There are similar studies looking at drought risk. However there are very few examples where such studies are joined, let alone linked to other water related impacts, such as flooding and agricultural production.

As new tools, especially the ability to collate and use large and disparate data sources, and the rise of AI, become increasingly available and affordable, such catchment whole water cycle working will increase, and provide real benefit across sectors. To enable this however will not only require new technology, but more importantly changes in working practice. For example, sharing of data between organisations will be critical. Individuals will need to understand more about the issues and potential solutions for others affected by the water cycle in an area. Whilst the technical challenges are complex, the organisational and people aspects present even bigger challenges. We must however overcome such issues if we are to deliver truly holistic and sustainable solutions.

April 17, 2018

The Only Constant is Change - Electricity 2.0

Electric networks are facing more variable loads at the local level (down to LV), including demands, such electric vehicles and heat pumps, embedded generation, such as photovoltaic, micro-hydro and wind and more variability of population density. These localised demand peaks put stress on the system and risk, leading to phase imbalance, voltage frequency and waveform issues, increased outage (customer interruptions, network interruptions), and thermal issues.

Traditional management of the network to mitigate those risks would lead to many issues. These include wholescale network capacity upgrades i.e. lay larger cables, larger transformers, major disruption, including to traffic and customers (planned outages), and significant increases to charges. These impacts would be unacceptable to customers and other stakeholders, including those whose journeys are interrupted by street works.

In the future Distribution Network Operators will need to become Distribution System Operators (DSOs). They will use LV automation and switching to balance loads and demands, This will mean a move towards Active (or Adaptive) Network Management, to be able to minimise and optimise the need for network upgrades. As such they will manage local networks like large national Transmission networks.

To become a Distribution System Operator, a network operator will need a solid base. This includes a sound connectivity model, the ability to link/share connectivity details with modelling tools, and secure links between core asset systems (e.g. GIS/aDMS). A few orgaisations are already moving in this direction, and I am currently involved in a DSO project. Such changes will become 'the norm' over the next few years.