AWS for Industries

Duke Energy and AWS are innovating for a smarter, cleaner energy future

Duke Energy Solar PanelsImage courtesy of Duke Energy

Duke Energy is collaborating with AWS to develop industry-leading smart grid solutions that will benefit its customers and help advance its clean energy transition.

The energy landscape is rapidly changing. Individuals and businesses alike are embracing renewable energy and adopting electric vehicles (EVs). Couple these trends with a rise in extreme weather events, and electric utility companies have a major undertaking in front of them. For Duke Energy, which operates the largest energy grid in the United States, the imperative is this: create the power grid of the future, a resilient system that can deliver the reliable, affordable, and increasingly clean energy customers need to power their lives.

To do this, Duke Energy must continue to modernize its grid with an investment plan that leverages rich data about customer energy demands, grid loads, and advanced analytical tools. And that’s what is at the heart of the multi-year strategic collaboration between Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Duke Energy announced on November 17. Through this collaboration, Duke Energy will build new smart grid software and services on AWS and expand its suite of custom-built applications that help anticipate future energy demand and identify where and how to update the power grid. The two companies’ development teams will continue working closely together to support Duke Energy’s innovation, and AWS will design and build out new cloud technologies to support Duke Energy’s grid-planning applications so they can run faster and more cost effectively.

Duke Energy has been building in AWS for over five years, and continues to migrate IT and grid analytics workloads to AWS. This collaboration will further Duke Energy’s commitment to use AWS as their primary cloud provider for software development.

Smart grid solutions

Headquartered in Charlotte, North Carolina, Duke Energy has more than 314,000 miles of transmission and distribution lines serving more than 8 million customers in North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky. The grid has served the company for more than 100 years, but the needs of Duke Energy’s customers have changed. The power grid was originally designed for peak scenarios, where power flows only one direction across the grid, from generation sources to customers. But now distributed energy resources such as solar are coming online in much larger quantities. Individuals are buying electric vehicles. Commercial customers are electrifying their vehicle fleets. This is leading to a decentralized, distributed and customer-centric power grid, where power can flow both ways between the grid and the customer. This requires planning and designing the grid for a large number of complex scenarios, beyond traditional seasonal peaks.

Duke Energy is committed to delivering the power required to support an evolving system. As the utility executes its clean energy transition to create a smarter energy future for its customers and communities, it has committed to investing $145 billion over the next decade in capital projects—the majority of which will be focused on modernizing the grid. That includes improving the grid’s reliability and resiliency, connecting a growing number of renewables and preparing the grid for rapid EV adoption.

To anticipate future demand and identify where and how to update its grid, Duke Energy has developed a suite of applications known as Intelligent Grid Services. These applications process and analyze electricity demand, energy efficiency, rooftop solar, and EV consumption, and then forecast where needs will be greatest and recommend grid improvements to meet those needs. By running these applications on AWS, Duke Energy is able to get these actionable insights from millions of gigabytes of data at unprecedented speed and scale.

Saving time, maintaining affordability

As Duke Energy undertakes its clean energy transition, maintaining affordability for customers is critical. That’s why data-driven insights are so important. It’s not feasible to immediately replace every wire and transformer to meet potential peak scenarios of electricity demand across the entire grid. So the utility needs to know where the needs are most acute and what the most cost-effective solutions are to meet those needs.

By running on AWS, Duke Energy’s Intelligent Grid Services will provide more accurate forecasting of electricity needs, which in turn enables the energy company to make smarter decisions about where to replace equipment or implement non-wire alternatives. These smart-grid solutions will help Duke Energy find the most cost-efficient way to upgrade an electric distribution circuit to serve a new housing development or determine where to add protective equipment to reduce potential failures. One application in development will project hour-by-hour needs for every customer meter for the next 11 years. Another application takes those data points and calculates a series of optimized solutions to meet this new load.

To do analyses like these that inform infrastructure investment, Duke Energy estimates it will need to run hundreds of millions of simulations of the entire grid on a regular basis. With its prior, on-premises technology stack, running 70 million simulations would require up to six weeks of computing time. To trim that computing time, the utility would have to spend millions of dollars in new IT hardware and licenses.

Instead, by deploying the Intelligent Grid Services on AWS, Duke Energy aims to run these same simulations in 15 minutes or less. This cloud strategy also reduces the amount of IT infrastructure the utility has to buy and maintain.

“It’s never been more important that the energy grid evolve,” says Peter Manos, Director of Research for Electric Power & Smart Grid with ARC Advisory. “But to make those decisions about how and where to modernize the grid, you need data-backed insights—and you need them at the speed and scale that the cloud can provide. This strategic collaboration with AWS will help Duke Energy get those actionable insights from its data that it can use to create a smarter, more reliable, and resilient grid to better serve its customers and drive its clean energy transition.”

Building for the future

Duke Energy and AWS both share a commitment to a sustainable future. Duke Energy has a goal of net-zero carbon emissions from electricity generation by 2050, including a target of at least a 50 percent reduction from electricity generation by 2030. The company is investing in nuclear energy and renewable energy sources, expanding its battery storage, and is exploring newer carbon-free tech such as hydrogen and advanced nuclear.

AWS’s commitment is demonstrated through Amazon’s sustainability initiatives. The company has set goals to reach net-zero carbon emissions across its operations by 2040. Transitioning to renewable energy is one of the highest-impact ways to immediately lower emissions. Amazon is the world’s largest corporate purchaser of renewable energy and is on a path to power its operations with 100% renewable energy by 2025—five years ahead of the original target of 2030.

“Like AWS, Duke Energy is committed to achieving a smarter and cleaner energy future,” said Howard Gefen, General Manager – Energy & Utilities, AWS. “And we both know that data is the backbone of the energy transition. As Duke Energy leverages the cloud to process more data, faster, they’ll also be able to access powerful analytics to forecast future trends. Then they can use those insights to build a more resilient power grid that meets customers’ needs – both now and in the future.”

Dylan Locsin

Dylan Locsin

Dylan Locsin is a Principal Business Development Manager for AWS Industry Products, focused on alliances and engagements in clean energy and sustainability. Dylan has spent over 20 years working with technology leaders and customers to develop and bring a wide variety of production and nascent technology offerings to market.

John Pressley

John Pressley

John Pressley is the Director of Clean Energy Digital Strategy & Engineering within the Digital Transformation organization at Duke Energy. John’s portfolio includes technical products that are accelerating the roll-out of distributed energy resources (DERs) and electric vehicles, in support of Duke Energy’s 2050 “zero carbon” goal. Under his leadership, his teams leverage technologies such AI, ML, deep learning, and IoT to push the company in new, innovative directions.