As boardroom executives focus on their Energy Transition, it is essential that their private network be part of the strategy. A utility’s ability to integrate renewables and DERs at scale is directly dependent upon its communication networks’ capacity and capability to manage the exponential data exchanged at the edge. A robust, high-speed wireless network with LTE or 5G technology is foundational infrastructure to efficiently support future grid operations and compete in the new energy ecosystem. This is why some refer to this advanced network supporting transmission and distribution as the third grid.
The communications system has moved past supporting traditional applications and transport and has grown to enable real-time monitoring and control of mission-critical operations, making it essential to reliably operate a dynamic grid. These advanced networks are the catalyst for grid modernization, facilitating digitalization and amplifying IT and OT systems to achieve many of the boardroom priorities utilities are tackling today.
Decarbonization and Renewable Integration: An advanced network increases the grid’s capacity to support renewable generation and DERs.
Disaster Preparedness and Resiliency: Delivers the data for real-time situational awareness and self-healing capabilities.
Customer Engagement and Energy Management: Drives powerful data analytics for enhanced personalization and customer engagement.
Cybersecurity: Protects critical operational and customer end-to-end data through enhanced data encryption and protocols and SIM-based authentication.
Digitalization and Operational Efficiency: Expands automation, monitoring and control to the edge.
Asset Management & Predictive Maintenance: Supports remote monitoring, control, and data analytics for proactive maintenance and reduced downtimes.
Black & Veatch’s eBook, Private LTE: Bridging the Data Gap in the Energy Transition talks more about the network’s role in meeting utilities' strategic goals and objectives, as well as the benefits of pushing pLTE out to the edge and integrating with Software-Defined Networking (SDN). Using pLTE to extend IP/MPLS or SDN to the grid edge facilitates integration and interoperability between different grid systems being considered today, such as Distributed Energy Resource Management Systems (DERMs), Advanced Distribution Management Systems (ADMS) and Customer Information Systems (CIS).
There is a lot to consider when planning for a digital transformation and upgrading your network. No one solution fits every utility growth plan, so starting with the strategic intent and then comparing network options is the first step to gaining leadership buy-in and ensuring business alignment, such as the following.
Understand what you aim to achieve, whether it is improving performance, enabling automation, security resiliency, or workforce management.
Consider how to design the network to meet current needs and redundancy while allowing for future scalability to make sure resources are used efficiently.
Establish how you will operate and maintain the network upfront to ensure proper investment and to understand how to design the network to avoid costly downtime and performance issues that can negatively impact the bottom line.
Conduct a total cost of ownership (TCO) analysis of network options by calculating the expected costs, including spectrum, infrastructure, operations, and maintenance, and compare them to the anticipated benefits in terms of performance improvements, efficiency gains, or risk reduction to develop the overall business case to understand your return on investment.
Collaborating with a team, like Black & Veatch, versed in developing telecommunications master plans and executing LTE and 5G networks, utilities will be able to bridge strategy, feasibility, and implementation planning with execution ensuring challenges are addressed and investment optimized.