A New Paradigm: Internet of things expected to transform power utility industry

Internet of things expected to transform power utility industry

The internet of things (IoT) is emerging as a game changer in the development of the internet and will give rise to an ecosystem that is difficult to envisage at present. IoT is a seamless connected network system of embedded objects/devices, with identifiers, in which communication is possible without any human intervention, using standard and inter-operable communication protocols.

It is expected that 26 billion devices will be a part of IoT by 2020. The major drivers for the adoption of this technology are the accelerating advancements in the areas of mobile, cloud, big data and predictive analytics solutions based on in-mem-ory computing. In addition, the technology is becoming more affordable and feasible with a reduction in the size as well as price of sensors.

With the advent of IoT, devices will become capable of sharing data by connecting to the internet, rather than communicating by wire or wirelessly through a specific application to a wide or local area network. Although the IoT ecosystem builds on the existing machine-to-machine (M2M) applications, it is different to some extent. While M2M is associated with specific solutions, primarily in closed systems, IoT refers to the design and implementation of internet-based systems and solutions that interact with the physical environment (human-to-machine). IoT will combine the 4 Cs – convergence, connectivity, collection and computing – which will bring about a new ecosystem that will increase efficiency, promote new learning and provide new tools to tackle existing problems. Further, in the new scenario, power utilities will have the largest value as industrial internet could impact 44 per cent of global energy consumption.

The power sector across the world is characterised by ageing grids and workforce assets, hence creating a need to manage assets more efficiently using remote monitoring and management and data analysis tools. The increasing penetration of renewable sources of energy is also creating instability in the power grid due to their intermittent nature. It is estimated that by 2020, the share of renewables in power gener-ation will increase to 20 per cent, thereby creating more pressure on assets. This situation could pose a major threat to the supply of electricity if it is not managed properly.

With increased global concerns pertaining to energy efficiency, conservation of energy and reduction of carbon emissions, the energy sector is fast moving towards intelligent assets, grids, meters and appliances to enhance the interaction between assets, products, people and services in order to streamline the flow of information, enable real-time decisions and augment asset performance. In this regard, IoT is expected to bring about significant changes in the power utility industry.

The first mass deployment of IoT has already taken place in the power sector in the form of smart grid infrastructure in many parts of the world. In India, the government has come up with the Draft Policy on Internet of Things, 2015, which focuses on the development of smart grids and smart energy to build smart cities. The country is moving towards a world of internet of energy that interconnects the energy network with the internet, allowing energy to be locally generated, stored and despatched when and where it is required.

The huge volumes of data generated as a result of the deployment of smart meters along with the growth of smart grid infrastructure across the world will foster the development of new applications that could help in the identification of grid fault locations and real-time restoration, as well as the implementation of energy efficiency measures, and detection of energy loss or theft, and result in better systems to deal with demand response and outage handling. The operational efficiency of power plants and grids will also improve due to improved asset maintenance and visibility, better monitoring of asset performance, and convergence of information technol-ogy and operational technology. Subsequently, smart meter technology will help utilities gain greater visibility of energy consumption patterns and understand customer needs.

However, to reap the numerous benefits offered by the new paradigm of IoT, utilities will have to develop strategies to store as well as enable advanced analytics on the large volumes of data generated. The new ecosystem will also mandate the development of infallible security practices to prevent system misuse and damage in the face of cyberattacks.

With inputs from a presentation by Ankur Lal, Chief Executive Officer, Infozech, at a recent Power Line conference