The future of our modern network depends on leveraging more distributed intelligence (DI) at the edge of the network to help manage growth, stability, and security. The move to a smart grid also has a strong business case. Utilities that have implemented investments in advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) are now approaching breakeven point. But the good news is that the ID can create a positive business case without any change in consumer behavior, resulting in a net business profit of almost US $ 50 million for an investment of just US $ 22 million, and that. number continues to grow.
Adding more intelligence means moving processes from the central office and distributing them across the network. The added visibility of this DI ensures that utilities and critical infrastructure operators will be able to meet the changing demands of their customers while improving safety and efficiency.
One utility currently at the forefront of testing and implementing DI applications is Tampa Electric Co. (TECO). TECO has completed the first-ever field test deployment of DI compatible meters with Itron and is currently testing DI applications to improve overall operational efficiency and improve customer relationships.
Digital transformation and DI
More intelligence at the edge provides additional visibility and control over assets to increase efficiency. It also generates an entirely new customer experience by providing proactive ways to interact with customers, optimizing the efficiency of load control, demand response and dynamic pricing programs. DI minimizes the amount of data you have to push back to the back office to analyze and make decisions, which is time consuming, inefficient and expensive. Pushing analysis to the edge allows problems to be resolved faster, saving both the time and resources spent finding symptoms more proactively.
According to David Lukcic, director of strategic AMI solutions at TECO, TECO’s transition to ID adoption began as an extension of larger digital transformation initiatives around data and service automation. The journey to DI was natural and supported a transformational investment in new customer experience and operational programs. The energy company had already maximized the benefits of AMI investments and looked to the future to improve overall service delivery and provide additional revenue opportunities to offset the ongoing costs of upgrading the grid infrastructure.
The proposed benefits of the ID provide significant value to utilities, including the ability to:
- Manage rapidly changing conditions in real time.
- Activate an increasingly diverse ecosystem of smart meters, grid devices, and distributed energy resources (DERs) that communicate and collaborate.
- Establish measured improvements in network efficiency, including location awareness, security and reliability, and fault detection and recovery.
- Transform customer service by maximizing the efficiency of load control, demand response and dynamic pricing programs.
- Maintain the stability and operation of the distribution network by monitoring and managing operations in real time.
DI helps improve safety, manage energy consumption, and build stronger relationships with customers, which adds more value to all parties. DI strengthens an open and dynamic ecosystem of solution and application providers for utilities and customers. For example, DI enables energy companies like TECO to manage transactions and energy flows in real time, paving the way for a future dynamic grid.
Putting advanced analytics to the test
DI’s promise is to move intelligence and analytical processing to the edge, replacing costly and inefficient traditional back-office data operations. TECO developed a multi-phase test that first pitted DI applications against traditional back-office analysis programs to validate DI’s true value for itself and for the industry, which will be followed by testing on the field later this year.
The goal of the trial was to see if the DI would result in higher performance with less inference and wasted resources, such as having to send teams out into the field to hunt things that might not be there. With faster decisions based on more valuable information, TECO hoped to see a significant drop in the total cost of ownership with less data transported, stored or analyzed in the back office.
The first phase of testing focused on three DI use cases: Meter Bypass Theft, Neutral Fault Detection, and High Impedance Detection. These tests lasted more than a month in a controlled laboratory and the results were promising.
DI apps and cloud analytics detected all of the meter bypass theft use cases, but the big difference was that DI did not trigger any false positives where the cloud scan triggered seven. These false positives are expected to be lower in field trials, as the algorithms are tuned by training machine learning algorithms with more data. DI has a proven track record in neutral fault detection and high impedance detection, being able to accurately capture all use cases in every category.
Only DI has the ability to observe broken neutral problems in a 2S meter configuration, the most common form of meter in North America. The 2S meter only measures line-to-line voltage, and the data frequency required to discriminate and calculate broken neutral conditions from the available meter measurements is simply not viable in a centralized cloud approach.
Capturing high impedance fault signatures is not possible when the meter data rate is sent every 5 to 15 minutes to a centralized back office cloud model. Having the ability to pre-track DI counters in 1 second or less than 1 second increments allows for a greater variety of use cases that can be detected.
TECO’s lab results validate the benefits of DI applications by gaining actionable insights and a new perspective on problem solving from more granular real-time data. The changing critical safety and customer impact issues that a utility would address in the event of a failure are now proactively identified and addressed to provide greater efficiency and cost savings while delivering a more exceptional customer experience. The utility is developing a white paper to share later this year and is currently preparing for field trials with plans to deploy applications to the meter park and then to production meters starting this summer.
The bottom line is that network edge intelligence enables business transformation, evolves distribution network operations, and improves customer experience with proven and innovative applications that drive today’s active network. today and tomorrow.