Everyone wants to do it; and there’s a million ideas on how to do it.
How can we decarbonize the power grid? A panel of utility insiders at DTech 2020 looked deeply at this topic and shared insights and predictions about how digitization can decarbonize the electric power system.
The consensus is there are three Ds to this ambitious goal:
Included on the panel was John Kochavatr, vice president and chief information officer at Portland General Electric.
Kochavatr recalls how PGE set some aggressive BHAGs (big hairy ambitious goals), such as a 24x7 carbon free power system for the utility. Some of the progressive utility’s first answer was digitization, including a move to the cloud.
“The cloud has helped us in several ways, including consolidate customer billing, and monitor activity from the meter to the transformer better,” said Kochavatr.
“PGE was looking to move operations to the cloud to help meet decarbonization goals. It reduces costs, and save us time,” said Kochavatr.
Kochavatr further explained that cloud works on multiple levels, and on both sides of the meter.
“At the utility on one side of the meter, whether it’s IT, or OT, things are relatively the same. But on the other side of the meter, it’s kind of like the Wild West.”
“At PGE, we have competitors behind the meter. If our customers aren’t getting what they want from us, they’re going to find it with someone else.”
Other experts echoed Kochavatr’s experience, adding that analytics and machine learning, combined with optimization of renewable fuel sources is a giant step toward a decarbonized power grid.
For instance, machine learning can help optimize the predictive models for renewables like wind and solar. No one can be 100 percent positive on what supply will come from a solar farm tomorrow, or how many megawatts a series of wind turbines in West Texas will produce, but machine learning can provide a faster prediction for utilities, and that moves them closer to the reliability factor all utilities desire.
In short, the cloud, machine learning, analytics and optimizing renewable technology will help move toward a sustainable, and decarbonized power network.
“A lot of utilities, and customers, want to decarbonize the grid. However, it’s for all utilities to decarbonize in the same structure that got us there,” said Kochavatr. “Digitization, decentralization and decarbonization are how we get there from here.”
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