How well prepared is your grid to cope with upcoming paradigm shifts like a higher share of intermittent renewable energy sources and a substantial increase in EV charging? What should you do? Invest and hope for the best?
Rather than simply hoping for the best, wouldn’t it be better if you could know what’s best? This demands ways of determining where and when to invest more accurately and of making better use of your existing infrastructure.
Where and when to make grid investments
McKinsey & Company forecasts that more than 70 million electric vehicles will be on European roads by 2030, which means EV charging is set to skyrocket and place much greater demands on power grids. This will require investments and, in fact, Eurelectric estimates that €375-425bn must be invested in European distribution grids to meet future needs and enable the transition to a fossil-free society.
However, the real challenge is determining where and when to invest to maximize ROI. In what part of your grid would investments have the greatest impact to avoid potential outages? Is there a part of your grid in which you can predict future voltage quality issues in advance and make investments accordingly? Targeting and timing your investments better requires greater visibility into current operating conditions and information on which to forecast future needs.
Making better use of existing infrastructure
Power grids are designed to meet peak demand, but this is expensive, and size is a cost driver for investments. Let’s compare power grid investments to road construction. Designing a power grid to meet peak demand would be like making the size of a road large enough to handle the time of day and year when most cars are on the road to avoid traffic jams. However, traffic jams are not an option in the power grid because they could cause blackouts.
For roads, a better solution than building them bigger to meet peak demand would be to distribute the traffic more evenly at different times. The same principle can be applied to power grids. If electricity flows are distributed more evenly throughout the day, then peak demand can be reduced. This would enable you to get more out of your existing infrastructure, but you would need access to real-time power flows, like the way Google Maps displays traffic.
Embark on a digitalization journey now to get more out of your data
Data is key to both making smarter investments and getting more value out of your existing infrastructure. These days, innovations like smart meters and intelligent sensors give you much more frequently updated and accurate data than in the past. So, the data is there, but discovering how to use it – now that requires embarking on a journey to a whole new level of digitalization.
Eventually, by consolidating, contextualizing and democratizing your data, you’ll be empowered to make data-driven decisions on how to best manage and develop your grid while adding value for all stakeholders. However, keep in mind that this type of digital transformation will not happen overnight. Rather, the important thing is to get started now and gradually move in the right direction – think big, start small and scale fast.