Wireless Telcos Can Help Pivot Incumbent Energy Grids to Smart Energy Grids

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By Jake Saunders | 4Q 2021 | IN-6336

From October 31 to November 5, world leaders, environmentalists, and industry leaders convened in Glasgow, Scotland, to discuss the climate crisis and the initiatives they can take to avert a 2ºC (about 3.6°F) increase in global temperatures at the United Nations Climate Change Conference. Clearly, solutions will be needed across a range of industries, but the telecom sector and utility companies are making their own contributions to these goals.

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From Manual Grid to Smart Grid

NEWS


From October 31 to November 5, world leaders, environmentalists, and industry leaders convened in Glasgow, Scotland, to discuss the climate crisis and the initiatives they can take to avert a 2ºC (about 3.6°F) increase in global temperatures at the United Nations Climate Change Conference. Clearly, solutions will be needed across a range of industries, but the telecom sector and utility companies are making their own contributions to these goals.

The telecom sector’s and utility companies’ main objectives main objectives are (1) to more efficiently reduce the consumption of natural resources, including energy supplies; (2) to reduce the emission of global-warming gases; and (3) to ensure that power supplies are efficiently allocated. The latter is particularly important as a country may rely on intermittent energy supplies—such as wind, solar, or tidal power—alongside nuclear and more disapproved-of sources of power such as coal, oil, and even gas.

Smart Grid Momentum Builds

IMPACT


Wireless smart meters have transformed the management of electricity, water, and gas supplies to homes and businesses. By some estimates, smart electricity meters have reduced electricity power consumption by approximately 5% to 15%. In 2020, there were 710 million electricity smart meters installed worldwide, and that figure is expected to grow to 1.14 billion by 2026.

The deployment of Internet of Things (IoT) devices—not only smart meters but also telemetry-based monitors and actuators—can enable electrical power utilities to reconfigure their network in response to changing demand and supply. This new smart grid architecture makes it necessary to introduce a more reliable wireless communications network that requires high bandwidth, reliability, and remote deployment. IoT in the smart grid can support

  • Video surveillance of transmission lines
  • Robotic inspection of substations
  • Field operations and inspections

While smart meters have seen significant success, this is only the start of the digital transformation that is occurring in the power grid supply and management industry. As end users deploy solar panels and migrate to electric vehicles, management of electrical power will need to be more dynamically responsive. Governments and local authorities are rolling out wind farms, tidal power plants, and solar power plants that will require real-time, two-way communication. In Europe, the European Commission (EC) wants to integrate renewable energy, to integrate further a European energy market, and to permit consumers to reduce their energy consumption. To that end, the EC has set up the Trans-European Networks for Energy (TEN-E) framework. Recent European smart grid initiatives include

  • SINCRO.GRID (Slovenia, Croatia): This is a joint venture to evaluate mature technology-based solutions that enhance the security of Slovenian and Croatian electricity networks.
  • Again COnnected Networks (ACON) (Czech Republic, Slovakia): The ACON initiative strives to advance the integration of Czech and Slovak electricity markets.
  • Smart Border Initiative (France, Germany): These two countries are implementing policies that will allow for a more integrated energy management approach.
  • Danube InGrid (Hungary, Slovakia): The Danube InGrid enables cross-border coordination of electricity network management with enhanced data collection.
  • Cross-Border Flexibility Project (Estonia, Finland): These two countries wish to increase security of supply by cross-border provision of dynamically managed renewable energy supplies.

A number of major smart grid upgrades are taking place in China. Three notable smart grid developments include

  • China Southern Power Grid and China Mobile: These two firms are setting up a 5G smart grid demonstration project in Shenzhen to demonstrate several 5G-based grid power slice services, such as the deployment of differential protection and phasor measurement units, the installation of gNodeBs to support emergency communication and online monitoring scenarios, and the testing of end-to-end network slice security.
  • The State Grid Corporation of China (SGCC) and China Telecom: The China Electric Power Research Institute and China Telecom’s Qingdao Branch are working with Huawei to develop a security isolation assessment solution for 5G network slices.
  • SGCC and China Unicom: In Qinghai-Henan, these companies have partnered to implement an 800 kV ultrahigh-voltage direct current power transmission project. The project is intended to support photovoltaics power generation and renewable energy transmission in China’s western regions. Intelligent operation and management are managed by a 5G and edge computing full-sensing intelligent substation.

More than Just Connectivity

RECOMMENDATIONS


5G does not just provide wireless communications to utilities and electrical grids; 5G also offers

  • A Differentiated 5G Deterministic Network: 5G can help support a robust and reliable smart grid communications infrastructure. Service requirements include constant uplink traffic bearing capacity, latency and jitter, packet loss rate, synchronous timing, channel availability, and non–Internet protocol transmission by electric power communication protocols.
  • Partitioning and Authentication: Critical infrastructure must be protected from malware and security threats; therefore, it is advantageous that 5G can support additional vertical and horizontal layers of security.
  • Self-Determination for Electrical Power Suppliers: Smart grids are inherently complex network architectures that require considerable control over communication layers and the network assets located on it.

National power grids around the world are already feeling the pressure as their economies evolve and societies change and as the climate crisis demands more eco-friendly solutions. Smart meter deployments are very much in full swing, but governments and the energy sector need to digitally transform their electrical grids to make them more versatile, robust, and secure. 5G has several technical features that not only connect and monitor electrical equipment but also provide latency, high reliability, and secure communications. These smart grid deployments are taking place in Asia, Europe, and North America, and other markets should follow their lead.

 

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