In this rapidly changing, modern day digital landscape, ensuring the full reliability and resiliency of the smart grid is a growing challenge. How do we ensure the system will be able to “bounce back” and recover effectively from an outage? The explosion of the Internet of Things (IoT) introduced a wide variety of smart devices and products to bring increased connectivity. Couple this with outdated infrastructure, and the vulnerability of the grid to potential outages and malicious attacks has increased.
We saw that resiliency challenge manifest in the recent wake of Hurricane Harvey in Houston, Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, and even after Superstorm Sandy back in 2012, where millions of people were without power for days. In the case of Puerto Rico, more than 450,000 still remain without power, now four months after the storm hit. These types of outages are coming at a steep price – a 2013 U.S. Department of Energy study found that power outages caused by extreme weather had an average economy-wide cost of $18-$33 billion from 2003-2012. Consider this along with the growing concern for grid cybersecurity—with the U.S. Energy Department indicating that the electricity system “faces imminent danger” from cyber-attacks—and it’s no surprise that resilience of the grid should be a top priority for utilities.
To maximize the full capability of the smart grid, investments need to be made in more resilient infrastructure and technology solutions to strengthen the grid’s resiliency against unplanned events, from weather to security. A critical piece of this is in considering innovative technology solutions that can evaluate real-time performance and provide the information needed to act proactively, efficiently and effectively in the event of a problem.
For example, our Delta Smart Grid Network (DSGN™), brings real-time data capability and active IoT device integration wherever there is electricity. The network can provide utilities with actionable data and visibility into their systems and how those systems are operating through the use of our cloud-based analytics platform.
This infrastructure will enable utilities to more easily identify issues for immediate action, whether those stem from natural disasters, cyberattacks or other issues. For example, if there is a reported outage, a utility can quickly identify the location of the problem, which is typically a time-intensive, manual effort. In providing this increased visibility, utilities are empowered and the resiliency of the grid, in turn, is improved.
Another solution to boosting grid resiliency could be found in considering distributed energy, energy storage and microgrids. In one example from Hurricane Harvey, more than a dozen Houston H-E-B stores were able to keep their lights and resources on for their respective communities due to having natural-gas powered microgrids in place.
Readers, what are some other ways to build the resiliency of the grid? Share your thoughts and/or questions with us here.