intelligent utility

The digital economy era is underway, where supply and demand sides connect through platforms to create bilateral markets. Companies have adopted the internet innovation model to carry out cross-border operations, which presents a new pattern of power production and consumption where the Internet of Things in Electricity (IoTE) is gradually taking shape.

This article first appeared in ESI Africa Issue 4-2019.
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Setting the stage for an energy transition, since 2000, the global installed capacity of wind power and photovoltaic increased by 22% and 38% annually, while in China it has reached 46% and 62% respectively. However, contradictions between development of renewables and power grid planning, inadequate peak shaving capacity of power grid, and imperfect policies and mechanisms are becoming an increasingly prominent hindrance.

Meanwhile, multi-energy coupling of cooling, heating and power, high penetration of distributed generation and the scale of the two-way interaction between electric vehicle and grid have become noticeable. Users’ expectations of participation and information transparency are increasing as well.

The dawn of an initiative

At the beginning of 2019, in order to adapt to these developments, State Grid Corporation of China (State Grid) launched a new initiative to transform itself into a world-class energy internet company, serving as an energy hub, value-creating platform and benefit-sharing community with the development of Strong & Smart Grid and IoTE.

Under the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative, State Grid has been strengthening cooperation with African partners in fields of power grid construction, new energy development, and technical exchanges. To date, the firm has 155 contracts awarded for EPC projects and supply of equipment projects in 25 African countries.

Over the years, State Grid has been committed to constructing and operating Strong & Smart Grid with ultra-high voltage (UHV) as the backbone network, making energy resource allocation more efficient. With the new initiative, State Grid is paying more attention to IoTE, which links stakeholders (power users, grid enterprises, generation enterprises, suppliers) and their equipment to generate shared data.

Through this level of interconnection and integration, the company will develop new forms of operation and new business models with ‘Internet Thinking’; and realise the transformation from a power grid company to an energy internet company.

The IoTE objectives

IoTE, covering all power system aspects, makes full use of advanced ICT such as mobile internet and artificial intelligence, to realise the intelligent service system with Internet of Everything and human-machine interaction, featuring comprehensive state perception, efficient information processing and convenient and flexible application.

In terms of technical architecture, IoTE consists of four layers: perception, network, platform and application, which are mainly in charge of data acquisition, data transmission, data management and data value creation, respectively. Based on ‘platform + ecology’ , State Grid will unify external business portals and entrances, and realise ‘drainage + enabling’ by developing a smart comprehensive energy service platform. By taking advantage of grid infrastructure, customers, data, and brand, new businesses can be cultivated such as energy services, a solar PV cloud network, Internet of electric vehicle, virtual power plant, multi-station integration, intelligent manufacturing, big data operation, and energy finance, to build an energy internet ecosystem and drive joint development of the whole industry value chain.

The construction goal of IoTE is to enhance the ability of automatic data acquisition and flexible application. Ultimately it will achieve one data source, one power grid map, and one line of business where all processes are online and fully transparent internally. It will also connect internal and external resources and demands to build an energy internet ecosystem.

The practice of IoTE

Recently, State Grid started to explore typical scenarios of IoTE, such as precise and active repair, and started to build pilot projects even before the new initiative was proposed.

The world’s largest Internet of Vehicles, a State Grid project that received the 2018 International Edison Award, realised the integration of 248,000 charging poles, covering 37,000km of major expressways and 173 cities in China.

In the Sino-Singapore Tianjin EcoCity Town and Beichen industrial-city integration zone, the company is building an ecologically livable smart multi-energy town. By means of the perception of power grid, operation data connection, customer service enhancement, and sharing energy ecology, the clean energy accounts for more than 90% of the whole energy consumption, and electricity shares more than 50% of terminal energy consumption. Meanwhile, the power supply reliability is higher than 99.999%. The comprehensive energy utilisation rate is enhanced with energy consumption decreasing by 15% for every household on average.

Focusing on improving the perception capabilities for all aspects of the energy system, State Grid is building a CBD smart energy system in Chongqing, China, where multiple energy carriers are integrated including hydro and gas.

Data flow, business flow, and energy flow can be fully shared to innovate business models, improve customer service, and explore new profit models. State Grid is accelerating the construction of IoTE from four aspects: comprehensive perception, ubiquitous connection, open and sharing, and integration and innovation.

To enhance the power grid’s interactiveness, data value creation, integrated energy services and new business capabilities, State Grid will improve R&D on smart chips, sensors, terminals, networks, platforms, artificial intelligence, cyber security and other key technologies of IoTE. Establishment of a standard framework for IoTE will cover seven categories of standards (common, perception, network, platform, data, business application and security) to strengthen the application and implementation of standards, deepen international exchange and cooperation, and enhance the supporting role of standards in the construction of IoTE.

The IoTE outlook

Upon the profound integrated development of a Strong & Smart Grid and IoTE, energy internet, as a concrete form of industrial internet, will be a new value-creating platform and ecosystem covering all players, industries and value chains.

State Grid is willing to strengthen practical cooperation with African partners in an all-round way, speeding up the construction of IoTE, building a platform for exchange and cooperation, exploring the application of IoTE in minigrid or off-grid projects, and serving the construction of the energy internet to make positive contributions to the sustainable development of Africa. ESI

About the author

Wenan Wang is the Chief Representative, African Representative Office, State Grid Corporation of China. He holds a master’s degree in economics and has over 20 years of experience in M&A, EPC contracts and overseas asset operation in the electric power sector. As the largest utility in the world, State Grid Corporation of China supplies electricity to over 1.1 billion people in China, operates assets in several developed and emerging economies in the world and has a presence in 25 African countries.

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