Making the Grid of the Future a Reality

Chief Technology Officer Marissa HummonFor more than a decade, the utility industry has been preparing for a major transformation. Nearly my entire 15-year career has been spent working on innovative grid modernization work, preparing for this “grid of the future.”

Now it seems the future is finally here. After years of analyzing the theoretical aspects of distributed energy resources and researching how renewables will radically change the way energy is delivered, procured, and priced, I have the opportunity to work with an incredible team that is putting theory into practice and truly automating the distribution grid.

For a long time, the industry has talked about the need for distributed energy resource management systems (DERMS). When these systems were first developed, they gave operators insight into what was happening on the edge of the grid – an important step forward – but they didn’t go much beyond visualization. Operators could see what was happening, but doing anything about what they saw required a series of manual actions.

Utilidata’s technology goes further. Ours is a solution that not only provides real-time insight into grid conditions, but also takes action based on those insights.

Today, our software uses machine learning to optimize voltage regulation across feeders on the distribution system. We gather real-time data to determine optimum voltage levels and then take supervisory control of equipment to execute an optimal plan. The team here has built a platform that runs on excellent computation – allowing the software to control the grid in a way that would require too much repetition and frequent intervention for operators to manage manually. This is the beginning of a true distributed energy resource management system – one that not only provides insight into what’s happening, but identifies what needs to be done, and automates as many of those actions as possible.

The need for this kind of management system is becoming more urgent because of two concurrent trends: 1) the rapid growth of distributed energy resources, from renewable generation to electric vehicles, and 2) the increasing expectation that the distribution system not only be reliable, but also efficient.

Going forward, there will be opportunities to apply what the Utilidata team has learned about automating the distribution system for voltage regulation to other applications on the grid, including through applications delivered on the meter. As the company’s new Chief Technology Officer, I am fortunate to be joining an incredibly talented team of scientists and mathematicians – many of whom have experience as power system engineers and understand first-hand how the distribution system operates. This is a team with a unique understanding of not just how to solve a problem by putting theory into action.

I look forward to working with this team to develop and deliver exciting technology solutions that move our industry closer to achieving the 21st century grid we’ve so long imagined.