With the increase in renewable technologies such as rooftop solar and battery storage installed on the consumer’s side of the meter, the challenge now becomes how to balance demand, frequency and the inherent instability of renewable energy resources. Here, we explore how to support utilities when implementing distributed energy resources (DERs) and create better intelligence at the edge of the grid.

Smart meters are now complex devices with amazing processing power, but by only returning interval data, they’re missing the opportunity to actually solve problems at the edge of the grid.

Nick Phillips, Head of Technical Sales – APAC at Itron, a global company supporting utilities to better manage energy and water, said that’s where he sees smart grids moving. He said solving problems at the edge of a grid not only removes data processing barriers, but it solves issues quicker.

“I think frequency response is a good example because only by controlling that and having visibility will you be able to have significant penetration of renewables without having to rely on base load,” Mr Phillips said.

Mr Phillips said we’re now seeing increased interest in the impacts of climate change, which means some of the old fashioned ways to maintain stability in the network need to be enhanced, such as changing the phase angle on inverters to be able to inject energy appropriate to the local need.

“It really is a matter of understanding how we take base load generation out and introduce more dynamics, and more importantly, control the dynamic instabilities inherent in things like wind and solar,” Mr Phillips said.

Intelligence where it’s needed

When looking at how we can enable better outcomes as we move forward into five-minute settlement and the next regulatory tranche of work, Mr Phillips said a key aspect is how we can distribute data for third party providers to be able to make sense of it and create meaningful programs that engage consumers.

“Rather than extracting vast quantities of data from meters, with edge devices and DI-enabled meters within the AMI network, problems are solved at the grid-edge and only the results of calculations will be transported to the individual VPP Aggregator/Agents.

“With this approach, it would eliminate the complexity of ‘clearing house’ for data, but also hasten calculations in real-time. Therefore, as opposed to trying to pull all the data out, you could apply edge intelligence and be able to deploy real-time service applications.”

For example, once a meter detects a drop in frequency, which could be a consequence of the increasing load in the home, an immediate load balancing would be triggered to rectify the imbalance. If every meter on the grid did this, you would have gone a long way to solving the problem of loading balancing for the entire fleet of meters.

“You don’t need to go up to the macro level if you could actually have a DER agent on the meter and locally control the generation and load balancing system,” Mr Philips said.

Changing behaviours long-term

By leveraging edge intelligence, it accelerates the deployment of real-time service applications which will engage and potentially transform the behaviour of the consumers.

In that aspect of enhancing the digital experience of the consumer, Mr Phillips said the core factors are to address efficiency, conservation, and sustainability. Efficiency is about providing information to the consumer concisely so that they can do something to gain a short term benefit.

Conservation is about fundamentally changing more long term behaviours. “If you present information in bland numbers it can be efficient, but if you actually want to make meaningful change, you need to make sure that the consumer, even if they don’t realise it, is changing their behaviour to aid you,” Mr Phillips said.

“For instance, load shifting is nothing new, but if we can present it in a different way that truly engages people, then that changes long-term behaviour. Sustainability is then about making sure that any behavioural change doesn’t slip and we maintain enthusiasm.”

Itron, with its open, interoperable network connectivity, has the agility and flexibility to meet the needs of utilities in their journey to integrate DER into their grid.

This sponsored editorial was brought to you by Itron. For more information, please visit

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