How smart technology is leading the way for energy efficiency in electric utilities

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Maximising overall grid efficiency has become the need of the hour in modern times. After all, the fact of the matter is that diminishing electricity network losses mandate the implementation of both smart and efficient procedures that enhance active and passive energy efficiency. Electric utilities can accomplish this goal through a combination of outlining, measuring, improving both transmission & power distribution, and implementing various forms of digital technology that are both accurate and effective. This will go a long way in improving energy efficiency and reducing operating costs as well.

It has been established beforehand as to why the implementation of efficient procedures is crucial to stay within compliance – it helps in blending distributed energy resources (DER) and conserving money as well. This makes it all the more important to ensure that utilities and DSOs (distribution system operators) can revive operations and help them fall within regulations, while simultaneously reducing costs as well.

An Advanced Distribution Management System (ADMS) will prove to be quite beneficial in carrying out various tasks. These include predicting and mitigating losses, controlling peak demand, and mechanical fault location, isolation, & service remodelling. An ADMS mimics this impact on supply reliability, losses, and voltage administration, while algorithms also calculate the most effective configurations possible based on the data that is collated from devices like sensors, smart meters, and a multitude of switch operations. Utilising ADMS systems provide many advantages, such as reduced losses, enhanced voltage quality, and the enablement of an optimal voltage profile.

Distributed energy resources (DERs) are draining the capacity of utilities to properly manage the voltage levels they’ve legally agreed upon. DERs have alterable energy outputs and can be integrated into the grid itself, which can lead to an increase in voltage across one section of the grid and a decline in another. It’s painfully evident that orthodox voltage control tools are no longer sufficient to handle these fluctuating demands and variations. Due to this, utilities and DSOs are now providing refined solutions and sensors to finely tune the voltage control infrastructure, which will help lessen technical losses and reduce overall expenses as well. These solutions include smart sensors, virtual sensors, and remote terminal units (RTUs).

Usually, a monitoring system for European-style networks includes LV networks that have three phases, along with a neutral wire that can collate data related to the feeders’ daily load, voltage, and temperature profiles. This will help offer an extensive report of MV/LV level performance data. This type of LV monitoring can support a higher proportion of DERs since it addresses problems such as load and works that will help minimise overall energy loss and improved network connectivity

These losses generally range between a whopping 1,000 to 10,000 euros per MV/LV substation yearly in European countries. Thus, lessening losses is a primary concern and some strategies to curb this include, installing smart metering and additional sensors that recognise the root of failures and then quantify them, so that energy efficiency improves. It also helps in eradicating the smart city challenges of today.

Utilities have primarily improved in matching their energy goals by reviving unproductive distribution transformers, such as dry type transformers, which have a significant scope of improvement.

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