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Perspective

Grid Modernization

Smart energy will power the modern grid. Is your infrastructure ready?

Black & Veatch Grid Modernization

The transition to decentralized, digital grid systems is underway – further enhancing access to reliable, efficient, sustainable and secure energy for communities all over the world. The transformation involves massive upgrades to traditional and aging transmission and distribution infrastructure, and the integration of complex computing and communications technologies.

Utilities are also seeking new paths for revenue generation enabled by distributed energy, enhanced connectivity and mobile technologies.

Navigating a grid modernization initiative can be a daunting task, but a holistic, programmatic, system-wide vantage point, can help organizations develop and implement the roadmaps that connect operations, technology and organizational change, ensuring stakeholder business needs are satisfied.

Utilities that view their systems holistically and use an integrated systems and programmatic approach can potentially reduce grid modernization costs by between 75 and 150 percent.

Source: 2018 Strategic Directions: Smart Cities and Utilities Report.

What are your grid modernization strategic objectives?

Explore the smart grid infrastructure components below:

A grid modernization roadmap must consider business drivers, societal, environmental and financial objectives, and stakeholder risks. Regulators, investors, operators and customers are all seeking different values from grid investment.  The increasing complexity of distribution operations created by the widespread deployment of distributed generation and storage requires new and innovative approaches to planning for the modern grid.  New tools, techniques and expertise are all essential to defining a resilient grid that can handle the complexity of evolving customer demands. 

Utilities continue to discover grid operating benefits from their Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) investments. Widespread, real-time, visibility of service quality allows utilities to increase operating safety, efficiency and reliability while managing the variability and complexity of distributed renewable generation and storage. Optimizing service voltage, better managing customer outages, quicker service restoration, deferring capital expenditures and advanced load analytics are examples of where AMI technologies are providing value to utility customers while reducing utility operating costs. Learn more.

Reducing greenhouse gas emissions, enhancing grid resiliency, deferring grid investment, empowering customers to choose their own energy source, and reducing customer energy costs are all driving the explosive deployment of DERs across a grid that was designed to deliver energy from a utility to its customer and not the other way around. Utilities are challenged to study their grids to understand just how much and where DER can be located and how to best operate them individually and collectively to meet the conflicting objectives of grid operators and their customers. Utilities should carefully examine the performance of their grids and impacts of distributed resources to identify limits of saturation, costs and benefits as they develop and implement DER integration policies and interconnection processes. Learn more.

To improve resiliency, reliability and efficiency, electric utilities need to replace aging grid infrastructure and deploy advanced operating technology (OT) and information technology (IT) upgrades, as well as the communications networks that allow grid automation to monitored and controlled.  Volt/VAR optimization, conservation voltage regulation, fault location isolation and restoration, outage management and asset health monitoring are all emerging technology applications that support modern grid operations. Developing a strategy and roadmap, selecting and deploying the right devices and applications, operating and maintaining the new equipment, transforming the grid operations center and understanding how to get the value out of vast new operational data streams are all challenges that must be addressed. Learn more.

Advances in wired and wireless communications and the evolution of the Internet of Things enable utilities to deploy secure, fast, reliable and widespread communications networks to support grid modernization. The communications networks allow millions of devices to communicate with and be controlled by modern control centers providing system operators with unprecedented visibility and control of the grid. Choosing the right communications solution requires careful consideration of cost, performance, security, reliability and technology obsolescence. Holistic communication infrastructure solutions can promote further integration across the entire grid - between substations, distribution and customer end-systems, control centers and in some cases the communities in which utilities serve.  Using the utility communications network as a foundation for Smart Cities is an emerging trend that can build strong relationships between utilities, their customers and their communities. Learn more.

Early and frequent communication with stakeholders, including customers, communities, regulators, and impacted operating divisions is essential to effective grid modernization.  Understanding stakeholder needs and concerns; educating stakeholders about the costs, benefits, and risks; digging deep to capture stakeholder business needs; and providing informative and transparent messaging are all keys to effective stakeholder engagement.  Early engagement of regulatory and governing bodies is essential to securing the financial support needed for the significant investments associated with grid modernization initiatives.  Engaging customers about the value of grid modernization is essential to promote effective participation in customer conservation, efficiency, and rate programs that will empower customers to are is evolving how utilities deliver and charge ratepayers. Automation, distributed energy resources, smart grid technologies and associated regulations will impact a utility business model. Learn more.

Grid modernization often includes multiple concurrent complex projects to develop and deploy a communications network; select, configure and install automation devices; prioritize and replace aging infrastructure; install and integrate new operating technologies; transform organizations and implement new business processes; train employees; and implement new operating and maintenance practices.  Managing the millions of dollars of investment over several years to achieve expected performance and benefits, especially when ratebase contingencies are in play, requires a robust approach to program and project management.  Deploying smart grid technologies and communication functionality can be simplified by partnering with a comprehensive program management and integration services provider. Services can include program management, design engineering oversight, procurement and logistics and field management, including end-to-end system integration. 

Infographic: Smart Distributed System: Active Network

Smart Distributed System

A Full-Service Grid Modernization Partner

Programs of this scale and complexity require deep domain expertise and proven execution capability. From the operations control center to the smart grid devices installed in the field, each utility will need a custom solution to design, install and integrate the operational technology and communication networks that are the driving force behind an intelligent grid. 

Black & Veatch can support the entire lifecycle, including program strategy, architecture, deployment, and optimization. We offer program and project management, engineering, procurement, construction (EPC) and installation, as well as testing and commissioning. 

Proven grid modernization expertise:

Fort Collins Advanced Metering

Black & Veatch partnered with the City of Fort Collins to assess its business, operating and customer requirements to deploy an advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) system and other smart grid technologies.

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Public Service Electric & Gas’ (PSE&G) Grid Modernization Program

Program management and integration included PSE&G’s innovative Automated Loop Scheme, deploying Smart reclosers with digital logic and communication functionality to improve the reliability of the electric grid.

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Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative (SMECO) Smart Grid Strategy

Working hand-in-hand with SMECO, Black & Veatch professionals helped formulate their smart grid strategy. This plan leveraged known technologies, laying a solid foundation for smart grid capabilities that are critical to the utility’s long-term success.

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