Network February 2018

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NETWORK / 17 / FEBRUARY 2018 "We want to allow third parties and the market to provide services so that we don't need to reinforce." All of these developments require infrastructure in terms of not just smart meters, but monitoring devices all over the network, from substations upwards, and the development of telecoms infrastructure via fibre-optic cables to send streams of data swi•ly backwards and forwards. Mobile and wireless networks are also being employed to transmit data. And then repositories and databases must be developed by networks and service providers in the supply chain to store information. It should also be desirable for networks to share relevant data between different functions within the business, says Beck. "Those working in the planning department or operations may be trying to solve a particular problem – but the data they are extracting could also be useful for "If the networks can get visibility of these new decentralised technologies, they will be able to run more efficiently." Lucy Electric has been developing and refining the GridKey system for more than three years. Beck explains that when Lucy Electric was initially developing GridKey, it struggled to find a technology on the marketplace that would be able to deal with the amount of data generated by the energy industry. For example, Beck points out that in terms of potential data to be collected and analysed, there are more than 500,000 substations in the UK alone. Eventually, Lucy Electric developed a non-relational database based on NoSQL technology – the same technology that Google, Facebook and Amazon employ. NoSQL databases are increasingly used in big data and real-time applications on the Internet. "We were quite happy to borrow a technology that had been used so effectively by Internet giants," says Beck. Smart meters are key sources of data. Although the smart meter programme has had its problems in the UK, these devices can only assist networks as they look to manage their assets in the most efficient manner possible going forward. As consumers use smart meters, networks have the potential to receive and analyse data on energy usage on the basis of individual homes. In fact, the ENA says networks already have access to sets of anonymised smart meter data that have been collected higher up the system for complete areas, such as towns. Brazier says: "Because smart meter data is measured every half an hour, if we get that data for a month, we can clearly see what is happening on that part of the network. When it comes to planning, we know what needs to happen on the network to reinforce. That might be because everyone in a street is purchasing an electric vehicle, or if a lot of people are adopting heat pumps. The data can help us make informed planning decisions." Monitoring the network The more specific and useful the data, the better. Formerly a network might only have been able to see the maximum load in an area over a month-long period, and would have had to reinforce the network accord - ingly. Now, it will be possible to see the load profile on a day-by-day basis. If the load is higher on some days than others, it will be possible to buy in a service from the market to cover that period. Brazier says: "An energy storage provider or flexibility service provider can say, 'we'll build a system here, we will chop that peak off for two days a month for you'. That would be cheaper than essentially building another section of network. the faults team." More widely, there may be external stakeholders such as academia that could make use of the information too, Beck says. The increasing collection, storage and analysis of data inevitably brings security challenges. Brazier acknowledges that there may be commercial sensitivities in sharing data between networks. "Traditionally the networks have been in competition. Today, it is about talking with each other, and asking what access to data is needed: how o•en do you need the data? Do you need it in real time?" There is also the issue of cyber security. "Cyber threats will continue and we must keep the data safe," says Beck. Research into new ways of manipulating information and using it to manage networks will continue. Lucy Electric is developing algorithms to detect when an electric vehicle has been plugged in. For the next generation of engineers, the company is also interested in the possibilities of enhanced graphical user interfaces and app-style means of accessing network data. In fact, the energy industry has much to learn from the tech industry, Brazier says. "The networks are starting to hire data scientists – which they never would have done traditionally. Ultimately, the real expertise and innovation is in tech and so•ware companies. The day when consumers start buying their energy from Google is probably not very far away," he suggests. A graphic showing the GridKey interface

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