Extreme weather events can increase grid modernization efforts.

Climate change may not be a priority for the current administration, but utilities should be taking notice of the increase in extreme weather events when embarking on a grid modernization project.

A report from the Boston-based Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) said that modernizing the current electric system was a key factor in making certain that energy systems perform as required during an event such as a hurricane, blizzard or wildfire. According to EDF's Grid Modernization: The Foundation For Climate Change Progress report [PDF], grid modernization is the first step in ensuring that the lights remain on for as long as possible.

It is common knowledge that the American electric grid is in need of an upgrade, the EDF said. The non-profit organization believes that a variety of extreme weather events in recent years have increased the need for utilities to make investment in people-centric solutions that will clear channels of communication to both customers and utility workers themselves. In addition, a modernized grid can be more efficient and keep energy costs affordable during periods of peak demand.

"Upgrading our electricity system is critical to fighting climate change and keeping the lights on for more people during future storms," said the EDF's grid modernization director Ronny Sandoval, in a press release. "Many utilities across the country are now investing in grid upgrades. In addition to improving resiliency, these investments should make how our country produces, moves and uses electricity cleaner, cheaper and more efficient."

Grid Modernization Can Save Customers Money

The EDF report highlights six recommendations for utilities to consider when it comes to not only grid modernization, but also integrating technologies that can potentially cut pollution and save customers money. As you would expect from a non-partisan NGO, these recommendations are not set in stone, rather they provide a potential road-map to follow.

The recommendations are: 

  1. Sensing and monitoring for enhanced system awareness
  2. Intelligent integration of diverse distributed resources
  3. Maximizing the role of renewable energy
  4. Electrification of transportation systems
  5. Access to actionable energy data
  6. Efficient transmission and distribution management

Aside from the almost inevitable request to increase the level of renewable energy options, these recommendations are in keeping with the requirements of a modern electric grid. The perfect combination of grid modernization and utility-led investment will differ from region to region, but these are core elements that should be considered from the start.

The Electric Grid Is A Digital Platform

For example, the ability to "see" what is happening across a network is a vital component of the electric grid, especially when it comes to the collection of utility-centric data. With that in mind, research cited by the EDF said that the percentage of meters in the United States that are "smart" increased from 8.7 percent in 2010 to around 42.8 percent by 2016. And while the grid still remains a collection of physical devices, it has become a digital platform through software, control centers, communications and data analytics.

"A modernized grid that keeps energy costs affordable and promotes economic growth is vital to our present-day society," the report said. "Through its pursuit, we are making a commitment to the productivity and quality of life of future generations by helping ensure our energy remains reliably available and increasingly clean and sustainable."

As the calls for grid modernization continue to increase, dataVoice is on hand to offer a suite of products that can advance the efforts of power providers. To find out more about how our outage management software solutions can bring utilities into line with the requirements of the 21st century, contact us today.

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