Driving Smarter Energy Management and Usage
The world has changed dramatically since aging power grids were built. But one thing hasn’t changed: Customers still expect their electricity to stay on regardless of the circumstances.
Smart grids help power utilities keep the power on and customers happy. Smart grids collect real-time data usage directly from the point of consumption, allowing customers to take a more active role in managing their own energy usage.
And that’s just the beginning: Smart grids enable utilities to reduce outages and maximize efficiency in electricity distribution networks, and they help keep power grids stable.
But for all this to work, smart grids must be adaptive to serve the needs of utilities. That’s where Infinity Technology Solutions comes in. Infinity’s IP/MPLS-based wide area networking solutions (WAN) help utilities manage and use energy more efficiently.
Networking Solutions for Power Utilities
IP/MPLS allows power utilities to collect and transport more real-time usage data. Using this solution, power utilities can respond more accurately when the amount of energy that customers are using is rising or falling.
And what if there is an outage? An IP/MPLS-based communications network detects the fault in the smart grid. Protection applications can automatically take action to contain the issue and dispatch the right workforce to restore power as soon as possible.
An IP/MPLS infrastructure offers near-perfect reliability, guaranteed Quality of Service, and full redundancy. With virtually flawless efficiency, power utilities can safely and securely shift crucial SCADA and teleprotection applications onto a common infrastructure as they gradually migrate to an all-IP/MPLS network that supports both existing and new services.
Delivering and Maintaining High-Quality Power
Motorized appliances are just one of the many factors that can reduce the quality of electricity. To keep power from surging, sagging, or flickering, a robust communications infrastructure combines with smart meters at the edges of the grid and smart sensors embedded throughout.
A Field Area Network (FAN) extends communications to sensors, meters, and field technicians. Different communication network technologies can be used for FANs if the technology is available, if the applications are supported at the endpoints, and if costs allow.
Power utilities typically deploy wireless- or wireline-based solutions, depending on the terrain, network topology, application bandwidth requirements, and spectrum/fiber availability. Wireless solutions include 4G-LTE, 3G, RF mesh and WiMAX.
Prominent wireline solutions include Gigabit Passive Optical Network (GPON) and Fiber to the x (where x can be a home — FTTH, neighborhood, etc.) and Power Line Communications (PLC).
These solutions further help power utilities maintain power quality. In addition, FANs, wireless solutions, and wireline solutions help utilities:
- Better ensure regulatory compliance while minimizing the adverse impact of problems
- Reduce costs
- Identify consumers or producers who are creating a problem and proactively mitigate the effects of their activities
Benefits of an Infinity Technology Solutions Network
Improve Operational Efficiency
Power utilities face pressure to improve their operational efficiency even as they explore new options for reliability, quality, and renewable energy. To make matters even more challenging, many skilled workers at some utilities are retiring, which hinders utilities’ operational efficiency.
Fortunately, smart grids provide the means to help power utilities become more efficient. Smart grids, built on a communications network based on IP/MPLS, use automation to improve:
- Asset management
- Grid maintenance
- Workforce dispatch
With highly reliable communications, power utilities can improve the monitoring of assets to determine those that are stressed or underused. This provides real information, instead of engineering rules on paper, to support decisions related to maintenance or replacement. Utilities can maximize the use of existing assets and make smart investment decisions for replacing equipment.
It also enables an efficient mobile workforce. When repairs are required, utilities can send the right person to the right place, with the right tools, to address the problem.
An advanced communications network allows power utilities to capture and provide centralized access to the knowledge and skills of their entire staff. Such a network also ensures that valuable knowledge is not retired along with long-serving and senior employees. Lower-skilled field staff, with direct access to documentation and the knowledge of skilled personnel, can complete their assignments faster and resolve more challenging issues.
Service and network-level communications management capabilities also simplify operations and reduce operational costs. These include applications for integrated IP/MPLS and microwave network management, as well as intelligent and flexible self-serve and assisted customer care tools for enabling smart meters and additional applications within a residence.
Engage with Customers
The smart grid helps power utilities address today’s challenges by engaging more with customers. Thanks to the smart grid, customers can take a more active role in being more energy efficient, reducing peak demand, and exploring renewable energy initiatives.
A smart grid and its adaptive grid communications network collects real-time usage information from smart meters. With this data, power utilities give businesses and households the information and incentives they need to shift energy use from peak to non-peak times.
By interconnecting the communications network with business support systems, power utilities feed smart grid data into customer management systems. Utilities use energy pricing to influence consumer behavior and automate outage management and energy purchasing systems to create a self-activating, highly reliable smart grid for energy delivery.
The smart grid creates a win-win for power utilities and their customers. Both business and residential consumers can control and lower their own energy costs, while power utilities can take proactive measures to reduce the risk that demand will outstrip supply and cause brownouts or blackouts. Utilities save significant costs associated with bringing additional power generation sources online or buying power from other utilities during periods of peak demand.
Going one step further, power utilities put remotely monitored and controllable technology, such as smart thermostats, in homes and businesses. With this approach, they automatically adjust consumers’ usage by an agreed-upon amount to help flatten demand peaks in real-time.
Improve the ROI for Utilities
The financial benefits of smart grids and smart metering for power utilities could easily exceed $100 million over 10 years once the system is fully built. This number is from the Utilities Telecom Council (UTC) research paper, “Smart Grid Economics, Making the Business Case for Smart Network Technologies.”
The Economic Analysis research center of Nokia Bell Lab can help power utilities make the right investment decisions. The lab delivers advanced methods and tools for network planning and design, as well as financial optimization of network transformation and business modeling.
Bell Labs experts rely on data analytics from multiple sources that embrace a large ecosystem. As a result, these experts evaluate the business and network economics to quantify benefits and risks for better energy management and cost optimization and to provide new revenue opportunities and decreased environmental impact.
Support the Growing Renewable Energy Market
Today’s reliable, high-quality power delivery includes energy from non-traditional sources. Once upon a time, electricity flowed in one direction — from the large-scale generation plant through transmission lines, into the distribution network and out to consumers.
With renewable and intermittent energy sources, electricity on the grid now flows in all directions.
A FAN extends communications to remote locations on the edges of the distribution network. It connects them to an IP/MPLS-based core network that is highly reliable, fast and secure, allowing power utilities to rapidly transport the data required to manage these more complicated electricity flows.
These networks support the additional real-time data generated by renewable energy sources. The speed and reliability of the communications network enable the automation, applications and state-of-the-art storage facilities required to smoothly manage an irregular power supply and mitigate the inherent risks to power quality.
Partner with Nokia
Nokia is the trusted partner of power utilities around the world. We work closely with utilities to understand their challenges, objectives, and priorities to mutually develop technologies and processes for the strategic deployment of smart grids. Throughout these partnerships, we maintain a strong focus on power utilities’ priorities for safety, reliability, security, and efficiency.
Based on a deep understanding of cyber security requirements, Nokia provides security consulting services, advice on selecting and deploying firewalls and gateways, and the know-how required to implement IP- based video surveillance and access control across the smart grid.