The energy transition is a technological, cultural and organizational sea change—and data is the means by which utilities can solve the foundational challenges of the transition.

The traditional one-way energy flow from generation to transmission to distribution to customer has provided clear roles for network owners and operators. In simplistic terms, they are responsible for energy provision, network reliability and efficient balancing of supply and demand. With the introduction of distributed energy resources (DERs) such as electric vehicles (EVs), storage, solar panels, heat pumps, etc., the responsibilities have not changed, but the complexity of the environment most certainly has.

More complex coordination

Utilities executives we interviewed this year cite “changing business and operating models to address distributed energy resources” as the fifth most impactful trend for their organization (source 2019 CGI Client Global Insights).

Network operators must now interoperate directly and dynamically with a new disruptive paradigm of low capacity but high volume of DERs. This requires a more complex coordination between system and distribution operators for load balancing and congestion management when there is opportunity to leverage the flexibility of loads.

The evolution of the traditional one-way energy flow to the future distributed system resulting from grid transformation. © CGI Inc.

The future grid demands a new approach

IT solutions originally developed to support this one-way power flow were designed exactly for that structure. Now, network operators need to integrate and optimize the various DERs on the grid and balance the supply, managing power injection across consumption points. It is clear that soon these traditional IT systems will not be able to support the new capabilities required.

Creating new functions to support grid transformation requires access to quality operational data. Without holistic network insight, operators cannot move quickly enough to adjust to changing market demands.

Today, however, the ability to have a complete view of the network—such as the history of network assets or the operational status of network equipment—requires collecting and analyzing data that is siloed in separate operational and IT systems, such as distribution management (DMS/ADMS), geographic information (GIS) and enterprise asset management (EAM). Additionally, data on external-owned assets connecting to the network is still quite limited. According to 77% of the network operators we interviewed, data management and quality is the second top challenge to implementing their digital strategy. (Source: 2019 CGI Client Global Insights).

Solving the problem by and for network operators

Clearly, a new data strategy and way of integrating enterprise data for operational use is needed.

CGI has had the privilege of working on several innovation projects as part of the Low Carbon Fund initiative in the UK. Through these efforts, we have developed a solution portfolio—CGI OpenGrid360—that solves these persistent and pervasive data quality and integration challenges.

The key difference in our approach is using master data management and an integrated network data model created by consolidating data from multiple core systems. It brings data from internal and external sources together to provide a clear and detailed view of the network. Data from the various sources are checked continuously against the reference model and algorithms are run to detect data quality issues and identify the most accurate information, making it possible to significantly automate data cleansing. It is important to note this would not be possible with traditional relational databases or unstructured data lakes.

How CGI OpenGrid360 consolidates data from multiple systems to provide a clear and detailed view of the network. © CGI Inc.

Adding value across the ecosystem

The CGI OpenGrid360 solution is built to derive value from data across the ecosystem:

  • Network owners and operators can more rapidly deploy capabilities for the new energy system by building or adding applications via an integration layer rather than integrating with each backend system. By way of example, such innovations could include flexible connections (managing flexible energy contracts), active network management (moving from deterministic to probabilistic network planning), AI-assisted outage management and collaborative customer relationship models.
  • End users and other market parties can access increased granularity of reliable data through new services or applications.
  • Today, the traditional grid system is unable to balance and distribute power from the endpoints effectively. Prosumers want to feel the decarbonized energy they are producing or storing is getting used effectively and contributing to climate change targets. With solutions such as CGI OpenGrid360, prosumers can benefit from lower rates and contribute to energy efficiency through a more collaborative relationship with utilities.

Connect with me by email or at DistribuTECH 2020 to learn more about CGI OpenGrid360 and how it unlocks the power of data to innovate for the energy transition.

About this author

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CGI partners with leading utility organizations worldwide to help them navigate the energy transition and succeed as innovative digital leaders.