Accelerating transition with the Internet of energy

Published on Tuesday, 16 October 2018

The energy transition is real, but it is not linear: however, markets can align their level of development and accelerate their path to sustainability through the digitalisation of networks. The Energy Transition Summit in Milan focused on the theme “Driving Energy for inclusive prosperity,” analysing the factors capable of impacting the adoption of renewable sources on a large scale.

The event was held on 10 October at the Hotel Marriott and was attended by over 200 delegates from the energy sector. It was organised by the World Energy Council as part of World Energy Week Milan 2018, which ran from 8 to 11 October.

The Enel Group played an important role at the event with Antonio Buondonno, the company’s Head of Business Development of Eastern Europe, Africa and Middle East, Global Infrastructure and Networks. He told delegates: “The increase in the volatility and complexity of the electrical system based on Power Grids today goes hand in hand with a growing need for flexibility and quality.” He went on to say: “Two thirds of global investment is spent on the distribution network sector, equivalent to 220 billion dollars in 2017, of which 50% is in Smart Grids and System Software. Utilities and industry, therefore, are moving towards a complete digitalisation of their assets and processes, and the convergence of the IT (Information Technology) and OT (Operational Technology) sectors. Power Grids are becoming digital hubs providing an increasingly close connection between renewables and the consumer.”

Data from the Advanced Energy Economy Report confirm a decrease in international investments in conventional sources with a preference for renewable energies, with the largest segment of production assigned to electricity generation for a total value of 455.6 billion dollars. According to Bloomberg’s New Energy Outlook 2018, 73% of the investments forecast for 2018-2050 will be dedicated to solar and wind energy, and these resources will be able to cover 50% of energy production by 2050

Buondonno has no doubt that renewable energies are playing today a key role in driving the transformation of the market, and that it is also necessary to find improved solutions to tackle the non-programmability of generation (the demand for renewable energy services in Italy reaches peaks of 60 GW, with an availability of 30 GW) and increase efficiency levels. Yet this requires including the final users of network services in the digitalisation process: the flexibility of demand/response services, Artificial Intelligence, the availability of Big Data and, in general, the opportunities brought by new technologies will be insufficient unless awareness is developed to a satisfactory level in individuals. Utilities, continued Buondonno, are working to identify the needs of people and develop new products starting with the transformations affecting daily lifestyles (e-vehicles, smart homes, smart cities etc.). Offering this kind of assistance was also one of the reasons for creating Enel X, the Group division that offers innovative and digital solutions to meet the needs of the energy transition. Looking at the present energy demand, the increase of electrification is connected to the evolution of the industrial market and the new regulatory framework, and also to the need to improve air quality in cities and to support the spread of new technologies and appliances.

Large-scale digitalisation, which draws in the individual in a new role as a prosumer, produces advantages for all: an overall reduction in losses and costs and a more robust cash flow.

In the infrastructure and networks field, the Enel Group’s key projects focus on network automation and the digitalisation of operations: Enel has been an international benchmark for the Smart Grid and Smart Meters for many years, and today it already has over 45 million clients in Europe and South America who benefit from our meter reading and remote intervention services.

In Russia the Enel Group is working closely with PJSC Rosseti, the leading utility in the country for procurement and distribution services. Together they have set up projects that focus on Smart Grid issues, to support innovative and sustainable energy development on this vast continental mass. As Evgeny Olkhovich, Deputy General Manager at PJSC Rosseti, said at the Milan Summit, Enel’s know-how, broad international knowledge and the presence in Moscow of an Innovation Hub are essential resources that will help bring about greater energy diversification in the country. Furthermore increased investment in network digitalisation will also help speed up the integration of Euro-Asiatic networks with the Russian energy system, which is still heavily centralised. Utilities like Enel and Rosseti are leading the way towards Digital Power Grids.