Edge Computing to Play Critical Role Managing Grid Assets

Quantum Edge device: the smartphone for the Distribution Grid
According to the International Energy Agency’s latest World Energy Outlook report, global electricity demand is set to increase rapidly in all scenarios as a result of population and income growth and the electrification of increasing numbers of end-uses.  By 2050, demand for electricity will rise from its current level by over eighty percent in the most conservative scenario.
Recent policy developments have boosted the prospects for renewables in major markets, including China, European Union, India, Japan, and United States.  As a result, the global share of electricity generation from renewable sources, from thirty percent in 2022, will rise to nearly fifty percent by 2030 in the most conservative scenario. 
To effectively integrate the increasing renewable sources and to decarbonize electricity supply, grid modernization is essential.  According to the IEA’s “Electricity Grids and Secure Energy Transitions” report, reaching national energy and climate goals means adding or refurbishing a total of over eighty million kilometers of grids by 2040, the equivalent of the entire existing global grid. 
Modern and digital grids are vital to safeguard electricity security during clean energy transitions.  As the shares of variable renewables such as solar PV and wind is expected to double between 2022 and 2030, power systems need to become more flexible. 
How This Scenario Impacts U.S. Utilities and Grid Operators
Utilities in the U.S. today have the impossible task of tackling a multitude of huge challenges at the same time.  There is rapidly growing demand from electrification along with a shift in the generation mix toward renewable energy and distributed energy resources, which leads to more complex power flows and power quality issues.  
According to the IEA’s World Energy Outlook report, by 2030 renewable energy generation in the United States will increase to 2,205 Terawatt-hours, from 973 TWh in 2022.  Electric vehicle sales in 2030 are projected to be thirteen times the 2021 level.
Grid assets are aging (more than forty-five percent of distribution lines are more than twenty years old), and capital-intensive replacements are further complicated by supply chain issues.  In particular, an analysis by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory found that in the U.S., constrained grid infrastructure would contribute to a high-cost transition scenario.
The workforce that knows how to operate those assets is also aging and there is a lack of new talent to step in.  On top of all that, a higher frequency of extreme weather events and outages is causing resilience issues across the U.S.  
The economic impact of grid-related outages was fifty-four billion dollars, and those outages are caused mainly by technical failures due to equipment, according to IEA’s “Electricity Grids and Secure Energy Transitions.”  Power supply interruptions more than doubled between 2013 and 2021, leading the government to launch an initiative to improve reliability through better outage monitoring data.
To face the energy transition and to modernize grid assets, in 2022, U.S. investments were approximately ninety billion dollars, signifying a seven percent increase compared with 2021, again according to the IEA’s “Electricity Grids and Secure Energy Transitions.” 
In 2022, the Department of Energy announced the Grid Resilience Innovative Partnership Program, GRIP, with a funding opportunity of ten and a half billion dollars to support the upgrade and expansion of electric grids.  According to DOE, spending on smart grid technology is expected to be nearly sixteen and a half billion dollars in 2026.
New technology can mitigate the impact of these challenges through virtualization of traditional physical grid assets, democratization of data through digitalization, and grid automation to improve the efficiency of grid operations.  
Our Gridspertise team of smart grid experts have been at the forefront of implementing those grid modernization solutions around the world and now we are working with U.S. utilities to implement similar solutions. 
Edge Computing Enhances Performance and Reliability
Edge computing solutions – like the Gridspertise’s Quantum Edge device (QEd) – add to existing utility operations, the capability to automatically run process on the edge.  That can help utilities manage the deluge of data resulting from electrification and distributed energy resources growth that would otherwise overwhelm existing utility systems. 
This is mainly achieved through high-resolution, low-latency observation and automated control of grid assets on the edge.  Low-latency observation and automated control allows for immediate resolution of grid issues.  
The high-resolution data enables the identification of changes to grid conditions that would be otherwise undetectable.  This is enhanced through a built-in artificial intelligence engine.  
This is all complimentary with cloud-based software, such as SCADA, DERMS and ADMS systems.  After processing on the edge, selected data is sent back to those central systems for normal operations.  Critically, this optimizes information technology bandwidth, mitigating constraints, and lowering operating costs.
Finally, edge computing promotes reliability since all data observation and automation occurs on the edge and those processes can run during communication outages with central systems.
The All-In-One Solution for Substation Digitalization
Our Quantum Edge device was born to accelerate the energy transition, providing a new tool for distribution system operators to optimize distributed flexibility management. 
The QEd is like a smartphone for the distribution grid.  In fact, the solution includes edge computing hardware that is purpose-built for the grid and an app library that is open to third-party developers.  
The hardware was designed specifically for substations and includes robust communication channels, extensive input/output interfaces, built-in Medium Voltage protections, and is built to the stringent industrial requirements, including the strongest cybersecurity standards.  The computing power and integrated artificial intelligence engine were engineered to be futureproof to support any new use cases.
There are already several existing apps that have been tested and verified to address critical utility use cases.  One of the primary apps is to virtualize physical devices usually installed in electrical substations, such as RTUs, protection relays, modems, routers, and data meter concentrators, while unlocking cutting-edge functionalities and use-cases.  
An advanced self-healing app enables fault detection and service restoration for up to under one second.  A virtual PMU app that utilizes multiple QEd simultaneously enables unmatched accuracy for fault detection.
Gridspertise has also launched a “co-creation program” with both utilities and third parties’ developers: the first, to discover the capability of the edge intelligence and co-design new use-cases, the latest, to bring their software solutions for the Quantum Edge device. 
As a virtualization platform, QEd offers benefits, such as reducing the overall installation footprint, eliminating the need for extensive wiring and cabling, and streamlining firmware management tasks, thanks to the unique Remote Asset Management Platform known as EdgeBeat. 
Reducing the physical components in secondary substations, QEd enables to cut on-field interventions for installation, as well as maintenance and logistics costs, making networks more efficient and sustainable.
QEd’s Benefits for Utilities
Every aspect of the Gridspertise Distributed Intelligence Ecosystem, its hardware, firmware, and software, is optimized for the distribution grid. 
The Distributed Intelligence Ecosystem is a comprehensive end-to-end solution that can enhance all grid operator functionality with real-time capabilities.  The ecosystem includes edge computing devices to provide real-time observability and control for all grid assets.  This simplifies remote operations since grid operators can collect real-time data across the grid from one system.  Additionally, some edge apps can be utilized on different types of grid assets.
While some of the functionality provided by the Gridspertise Distributed Intelligence Ecosystem can be run solely through cloud-based solutions, there are several advantages to solutions that combine cloud and edge data processing.  For example, edge computing enables extremely low latency data observation and automation of system operations.  
Other advantages are the automated control of flexible resources based on real-time, localized grid conditions using customized algorithms and an integrated artificial intelligence engine, and that automated operations can be run reliably on the edge even during communication interruptions. Minimized information technology infrastructure burden is possible through high-resolution data processing on the grid edge with limited data sent to central systems as needed.  Moreover, utility managed hardware at distributed energy resources provides a consistent, reliable data connection and assurance that utility controls will not be overridden.
Our solutions were designed and engineered based on the extensive experience of our team as grid operators for several utilities in different countries and integrate seamlessly with existing grid assets and central software systems, minimizing overall costs of digitalizing grid operations.
Benefits Demonstrated During the Pilot Projects
Recently, we have validated the performance of QEd through pilot projects conducted in a real medium voltage grid environment in different countries in Europe.  Throughout the pilot projects, we rigorously tested some of the most crucial use cases for electrical utilities.  These tests illustrated how a platform like QEd, based on Edge intelligence, can significantly improve grid operational efficiency, provide enhanced observability, and contribute to improvements in SAIDI.
These benefits were clearly demonstrated during the pilot projects, where we focused on the following key areas:
Remote Metering: this involves collecting data from smart meters and transmitting it to the central billing system.  During field testing, we verified the accurate management of all customers’ smart meter data and alarms.
Remote Control: we thoroughly tested the functionality of the Remote Terminal Unit application installed on QEd.  In this context, QEd effectively managed connections to medium-voltage and low-voltage switches in the MV/LV substation, reporting their status to the Operations Center and successfully executing commands.
Network Automation: QEd units deployed on a medium-voltage feeder, equipped with edge algorithms, communicated with each other to perform automatic selection, isolation, and resupply operations, FLISR, in the MV grid following a fault in less than five seconds. 
Additionally, we are making substantial progress in mass-producing these devices, capitalizing on our supply chain and a network of trusted partners.  This achievement builds upon our manufacturing capabilities, exemplified by the milestone of manufacturing and delivering over a hundred million smart meters worldwide. 
Proven in Europe, Adapted for The U.S. 
We are already adapting solutions that have been initially developed for the European market to the specific needs of the North American grid.  For example, the version of the Quantum Edge device used in European substations will be slightly different from the version for U.S. substations.  But overall, the technology is the same.
Due to differences in grid topology between Europe and North America, we are developing a smaller form factor version Quantum Edge device that can be installed cost-effectively at pole-mounted transformers.  This device will work in coordination with the more full-powered version of the QEd in substations to enable full real-time visibility of the conditions across the distribution grid, including potential communication with DERs.
We are also working on a suite of apps that address the DER and flexibility challenges faced by U.S. utilities.  And we are actively seeking partnerships with innovative U.S. utilities to develop and test these solutions.
U.S. Utilities Can Accelerate Grid Modernization
We’ve met with numerous U.S. utilities over the past few years that have a vision nearly identical to ours for the grid of the future.  Operations will be largely digitalized and due to the increase in distributed energy resources, edge computing will play a critical role in managing grid assets.  Despite this alignment, utilities are often delaying implementing those modernization plans for two to five years in order to tackle other challenges.
Based on our experience working with utilities around the world, there is tremendous value in getting started integrating these solutions today.  Because virtualization can replace several existing devices with one, there is an immediate cost benefit to implementing solutions like the QEd.  
Installing those devices, even for a pilot project, allows utilities to validate QEd integration into existing utility systems and operations.  Adding more edge devices and new apps becomes much easier after that initial integration is complete.  This allows the many utility groups that will benefit from these solutions to learn how they can improve current operations.
It is important to select an edge computing platform that can grow with utility needs.  This requires a platform solution that can easily add new apps as opposed to single purpose edge devices.  The solution must also be designed with industrial requirements and computing power to meet use cases of the future and not just today.  
About Santiago Cascante 
Santiago Cascante Nogales is the Chief Commercial Officer at Gridspertise.
He acquired extensive international experience in the energy market, holding positions of responsibility at top companies like Schneider Electric and Siemens.  Prior to joining Endesa, a subsidiary of Enel Group, Dr. Cascante concentrated on developing new business opportunities in the Transmission & Distribution Market. 
His current role as CCO of Gridspertise is to partner with DSOs all over the world to provide them with cutting-edge and effective technologies, accelerating the transformation and digitalization of their businesses.  He formerly led the Innovation Division at various Enel Group corporations (Enel and Endesa), creating new business with a strong technological background on smart grids, flexibility and smart e-mobility. 
He is also an experienced speaker and lecturer on entrepreneurship at a variety of business schools, providing market assessment for new ventures. 
Cascante holds a master’s in engineering from the Polytechnic University of Catalonia (UPC) and a master’s in business administration from the University of Edinburgh Business School. 
About Gridspertise
Gridspertise offers grid intelligent devices, end-to-end cloud-edge platform solutions and services to accelerate the digital transformation of electricity distribution grids across three main areas: metering and grid edge digitalization, network infrastructure digitalization, field operation digitalization.  The Company’s portfolio is designed as an open ecosystem, easy to integrate with Distribution System Operators' existing infrastructure, combining intelligent and automated grid devices with ready-to-use modular applications, running at central level as well as on the edge.  The Company was set up in 2021 as a carve-out of Enel’s twenty-year-long experience in developing, testing, and scaling up digital technologies to transform legacy distribution networks into smart grids.  Gridspertise is today jointly controlled by the Enel Group and one of the leading global alternative investment managers, CVC Capital Partners.  The Company has a significant intellectual property portfolio of over 350 patents and combines its expertise in grid digitalization with cutting-edge solutions from leading technology partners to tackle the evolving digitalization needs of the energy market.  A milestone of 100 million smart meters with Gridspertise technology delivered globally has been recently reached by the Company, meeting the need of several energy markets and regulations.  Gridspertise is headquartered in Italy with subsidiaries in Spain, Brazil, India and the United States.  Current target markets include Europe, Latin America and North America, expanding toward Asia-Pacific and Africa, where investments in power grids will drive infrastructure upgrade projects in the near future.  Furthermore, the recent acquisition of Aidon, a leader in smart metering in the Nordics, expands Gridspertise opportunities in one of the most advanced grids scenarios.