Boosting intelligence in energy management through digitalization and IoT

By Sunil Ingawale, Director of Engineering, Eaton India Innovation Center

In this decade of the 21st century, the world sees very different challenges in energy management in the production, transmission, distribution and consumption of energy. As most countries face challenges to sustainability goals, a significant energy transition is occurring towards more and more GREEN energy. Many more energy sources like wind, solar are becoming more viable and being adopted. However, it has put a clear expectation on adding intelligence into existing products and solutions to manage this transition as well as adopting new digital software solutions. With the rapid advancements in IoT & Cloud infrastructure, creating this intelligence is now feasible and economically viable.

Power management is the foundation, it is synonymous with efficiency, reliability and security. The IoT and digitalization provide opportunities for innovation in traditional power management equipment and solutions. The multi-directional flow of information, the integration of advanced information and state-of-the-art communication technologies for the operation of power systems are essential to an intelligent power management system. Many of our traditional devices like meters, drives, circuit breakers, transformers do a lot of operations and control, but most of them happen at the device level locally and little data is available elsewhere to monitor or control or take action remotely. Additionally, most of this equipment has components that tend to wear out over their lifetime and cause unexpected downtime and business disruption. Addressing these supplier and consumer concerns is equally important. For producers/distributors it is Operational Excellence and for Consumers it is a pleasant experience.

The OEMs of this equipment are now adding a lot of processing power and intelligence to the devices and making them smart and digitally connectable. Many additional sensors are added to these devices to monitor temperature, fatigue, operation cycles, etc. to create those additional data points that can be captured at set intervals. With device-level IoT enablement, OEMs deliver a scalable, highly available, and cyber-secure cloud IoT platform at optimized costs. Now, this valuable data is transmitted securely to the centralized infrastructure. With this data available in the cloud, suppliers are now able to monitor their energy assets from a centralized location, reducing operational costs for them. The platform provides system operators with detailed real-time data that can be used to optimize overall system operations. OEMs provide different services such as event-based proactive maintenance alerts, predictive maintenance alerts through intelligent algorithms that detect anomalies by observing operational data and suggest maintenance actions before the equipment fails . This helps them increase their overall equipment efficiency (OEE) and reduce unplanned downtime. The Cloud IoT platform enables these alerts to be generated via mobile notifications to personnel anytime, anywhere, improving response time to critical events/outages. This responds to the aspect of efficiency and reliability for suppliers.

One of the biggest challenges facing vendors is on the planning side. The ability to meet peak demand and manage the overall cost of energy acquisition, it is important for suppliers to regularly understand the demand scenario, from small residential communities to a large industrial unit. Many suppliers are now installing their own capacity or working with other renewable energy suppliers like Wind & Solar. These sources are also managed by smart micro-grids. Along with smart metering devices, motor drives, smart switchgear, smart circuit breakers, smart energy management devices push this rich consumption data to their Cloud IoT platform. Suppliers can use these services to analyze overall load under normal circumstances and plan their regular demand and peak demand scenarios. These can help them use other energy sources to reduce the cost of acquisition from traditional sources. Any surges can then be supported at lower cost and thus also reduce energy costs for suppliers in peak demand scenarios. Distributed resources, when integrated using appropriate interconnect standards, in microgrids or in automated distribution systems, offer the potential to improve network reliability and resiliency for customers who value value to uninterrupted service.

On the other hand, consumers expect this pleasant experience thanks to reliable energy at competitive costs. With many consumers turning to green energy at home, they have additional energy sources available through solar panels, batteries and electric vehicles (EVs). Home energy management systems (HEMS) combined with smart energy devices can control these sources. These households now act as small micro-grids and can make smart decisions based on serving the loads in the household using a local source or supplying this additional energy to the suppliers to increase capacity and in return get the benefit in terms of costs. HEMS level services are integrated with the IoT cloud platform by analyzing load profiles and creating artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms/models to make decisions on which source to choose. Providers can use them through the API ecosystem to remotely manage and control loads based on preferences set by home users. In turn, home users can benefit by choosing the best cost-optimized reliable services that they can control at their leisure.

OEMs have created these Cloud IoT platforms and digital software ecosystem, which are fully managed by them, and vendors can use them as SaaS subscription models with no upfront costs. Digital ecosystems and devices are fully certified for cybersecurity and constantly updated as new vulnerabilities are discovered. OEMs also offer non-OEM equipment integration capabilities through industry standard interoperable interfaces such as Modbus, DNP3, EthernetIP, OPC-UA, BACNet, etc. This helps utilities stay focused on their primary goal of operational excellence. As devices become increasingly intelligent, intelligence is made available seamlessly across the digital ecosystem. OEMs deliver all raw data, actionable insights, complex algorithms, and additional insights through a bouquet of services through the published API ecosystem. Suppliers/utilities/distributors can use digital solutions built by OEMs or create their own specific web applications, mobile applications consuming these APIs and create personalized value-added services for end customers and create a competitive advantage for them- same compared to their peers.

As we speak, a level standardization of these end devices and equipment would help to become truly interoperable between different manufacturers. This can further increase the value of public services and the freedom for consumers to choose the equipment of their choice without affecting the services provided or consumed.

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Alan A. Seibert