How Opus One Solutions is helping utilities decarbonize effectively with AWS-powered planning system
From Utility Dive’s 2020 State of the Electric Utility Survey, it’s clear that the transition to clean energy continues to be the biggest driver of sector transformation. Of the 566 utility executives and professionals surveyed around the world, 46 percent said sustainability, integration of renewable energy, and environmental concerns were most important to their business. In addition, 30 percent said managing distributed energy resources (DERs) was top of mind, while 29 percent are concerned about ensuring reliability of the retail distribution grid as it evolves. These findings were released before the world shifted its attention to responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, but experts believe that clean energy, especially DERs, will be crucial to most nations’ economic recovery efforts after the crisis subsides.
Where current planning approaches and solutions fall short
To maintain reliability of their critical infrastructure, utilities typically conduct a snapshot study of a worst-case scenario to plan future grid investments, which increases the risk of overbuilt infrastructure and stranded asset investments. But understanding how the sheer number of variable, flexible DER operations and their many scenarios could impact the grid is a much more computationally intensive exercise. Planning studies have largely been done on local machines without much ability to scale up the required computational resources or promote collaboration and integrated workflows among planners, departments, and even external stakeholders. If utilities don’t address this gap and adapt current planning and operating approaches, they could further strain limited resources, increase operational expenditure, risk regulatory compliance and plan robustness, and impact customer service.
How can utilities tackle this challenge with cloud computing?
Cloud computing and parallel processing have made large-scale automated scenario planning possible, which considers a vast range of DER operating and investment scenarios across time, locations, and DER types. For distribution planners and utilities, this level of automation saves time and money, and the granular detail can better guide investment decisions – either in infrastructure upgrades or the potential of non-wires alternatives. This is something that is becoming increasingly prioritized by regulators who are looking for utilities to implement cleaner and more cost-effective solutions for the grid.
This is one of the key reasons why Opus One Solutions developed the GridOS Integrated Distribution Planning System – powered by AWS. The cloud-based system:
- Accurately models the impact of DERs on the electricity network to help identify potential constraints and optimal solutions
- Automates quick and accurate locational and temporal scenario analysis to account for countless “what ifs”
- Performs large-scale, system-wide iterative hosting capacity analysis for DER interconnection in just seconds to minutes
- Runs parallel studies to significantly cut down analysis time
In other words, it runs complex studies in a much shorter amount of time to help utilities make more informed decisions and speed up decarbonization. And as a collaborative platform, it helps utilities streamline multiuser workflow, building alignment, and traceability across all necessary business functions and stakeholders involved in distribution planning.
In one of our recent whitepapers – The Evolution of Hosting Capacity – we used GridOS to quickly demonstrate that using time-series, dynamic, and optimal power flow calculated hosting capacity can result in utilities connecting and managing up to 40 percent more DER capacity than using traditional, static calculations – all while ensuring reliability of the distribution network. This type of analytical capability in a cloud solution is key to helping utilities like Hawaiian Electric reach their ambitious clean energy targets on time.
So which core AWS services enable utilities to take advantage of all these features in GridOS?
While the GridOS planning system leverages many AWS services, the following are key to providing utilities with the data storage, processing and advanced analytics they need:
- Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) – provides secure, resizable compute capacity in the cloud.
- Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) – an easy-to-use management system to store and protect any amount of data for a range of use cases.
- AWS Lambda – runs code without provisioning or managing servers, and users only pay for the compute time consumed.
- Amazon Forecast – a service that uses machine learning to deliver highly accurate forecasts.
Why the cloud is utilities’ future
While utilities have generally used on-premises solutions, cloud computing provides utilities with the data harmonization, analytical capabilities, flexibility, and scalability they need as they quickly adapt and take advantage of the opportunities presented by decarbonization. What’s more, these types of solutions can also help utilities save on their operational expenditures and significantly cut down their IT infrastructure spend, with one consulting firm estimating those savings to be somewhere between $70 million and $168 million. Major utilities are already using Opus One’s web-based system because of these exact benefits and 170 more industry professionals from international utilities, consulting firms, and government agencies are using the free version of the system to explore its capabilities and applicability for broad deployment. The cloud is definitely the future for utilities.