Big Data: Developing Smart Energy Networks

Published on Thursday, 18 December 2014

Digital technology will have on a key role in Enel's future global network. It's through IT innovation and taking advantage of the Internet of Things (the online exchange of information through devices and instruments) the distribution of energy will work more efficiently, offering customers high quality services at a lower cost and allowing the business to optimise resources and investments in each of the countries operates in.

According to Livio Gallo, the Group's Head of Global Infrastructure and Networks, the keyword in the creation of a genuinely smart and global infrastructure is 'convergence'.

'This means harmonising processes, using the same technologies, components and systems in all of Enel's networks throughout the world,' says Gallo. 'It is only in this way that we can maximise the service provided to customers, streamline costs and converge toward a single network management system.' In order to achieve this goal, all systems must be able to communicate, and therefore work in a cloud, a method that enables the development of innovative network management systems in each of the countries Enel operates in.

Working in a cloud also enables greater scalability – in other words, a higher potential for growth and adaptability of systems. This is because it is possible to find effective solutions to problems in a shorter period of time, offering more effective services at negligible cost.

The basis of the evolution of the power grid is the electronic meter, which was developed by Enel. 'Thanks to smart meters today's networks function like an intelligent nervous system,' Gallo explained. 'The Italian network alone has more than 650,000 SIM cards that interact with each other by collecting a huge amount of data, and in just a few years that amount will triple, if not quadruple. In order to manage this distributed intelligence, we need to make use of Big Data technology.'

Big Data innovations are mostly developed in the USA, and in recent months Enel visited the Silicon Valley to identify the best solutions and carry out a Proof of Concept on its networks. The tools perform check measures, uncovering commercial fraud and predictive maintenance. By gathering data from the networks' sensors, the systems are capable of detecting weak signals and identifying the best maintenance methods, optimising costs. 'Big data is a technology that we will make extensive use of,' Gallo says. 'We should therefore properly train Enel personnel, both those who innovate and those who manage the network. It is an important frontier for the development of smart grids.'