The utility operational paradigm is evolving from control to control and coordination as distributed energy resources expand.
FREMONT, CA: In its most recent national biannual assessment of the condition of the smart grid system, the US Department of Energy (DOE) notes that the electric grid has undergone significant changes over the past decade.
However, the rapid deployment of renewable energy resources over the past five years and the introduction of technologies like electric vehicles and grid-interactive buildings are introducing tremendous complexity and uncertainty to grid designers and operators.
The electric grid must adopt a new operating structure with advanced functional capabilities to manage variable power output, fluctuating and unpredictable load patterns, and bidirectional power flow. Additionally, enable novel grid designs due to the shifting resource composition and industry makeup.
It will also necessitate effectively, time-dependent coordination among all parties – utilities, market operators, and new companies – to guarantee the dependable functioning of essential and evolving grid functions.
Innovative grid technology and deployment strategies are necessary to address this new and rising complexity.
And while utilities have been deploying digital devices for decades, the transition to a more distributed and interactive system will demand more sophisticated intelligent grid technology applications.
US electric utilities would spend around $15 billion annually on IT and OT digital technologies, of which $8.3 billion will be spent on innovative grid technologies and systems in 2020. These numbers are expected to surpass $24.5 billion and $16.4 billion by 2026.
Modernization of the grid is an integral element of an integrated planning procedure. Thirty-eight states and the District of Columbia have completed or are completing some grid modernization, including deploying innovative grid technologies, distributed energy resources, or both.
In addition, state-level planning processes are changing to incorporate the implementation of smart grid technology and distributed energy resources into more comprehensive integrated plans. Five states already mandate integrated distribution strategies, with other states about to follow.
Nonetheless, a whole-systems resilience planning approach must inform intelligent grid investments. Efforts are now required to address the vulnerabilities associated with interdependencies between the electric grid and other infrastructures, the protection of essential civilian and military functions, and the resilience enhancements that novel grid configurations, such as microgrids and mini-grids, may provide.
However, establishing plug-and-play interoperability will continue to be difficult and time-consuming due in part to decades of incremental changes to grid systems and a reliance on customized, proprietary solutions from technology providers.
To support new grid technology, the composition of the workforce's skills must change.
The retirement attrition rate stabilizes after big waves of retirement during the preceding decade. However, the abilities required to develop, construct, and manage the future grid efficiently are evolving rapidly. The widespread application of digital technology necessitates an increase in highly skilled workers and engineers, such as system architects, data scientists, modeling and simulation specialists, IT/OT cybersecurity specialists, and communications and digital control engineers.