In some regions, the LV system can be up to 10x larger in terms of assets than higher voltage networks. Meanwhile, the influx of new energy sources and devices, coupled with ever-increasing demands on this part of the grid, are changing its day-to-day usage—leaving distribution operators blind to dynamic supply and demand patterns and potential risks to reliability.
For the first time in the history of the electricity industry, there is the prospect of large amounts of data relating to the status of the grid at this level. LV networks are seeing a dramatic increase in telemetry and other data inputs from various sources. With the advent of smart meters, real-time sensors, and even mobile diagnostic SCADA telemetry devices, the amount of available information is growing exponentially. At the same time, opportunities to optimize are changing as the data influx offers greater analytical scope to drive change across operational practices to become more predictive and prescriptive.
Historically, LV networks have lacked visibility. Paper records, static GIS maps, and databases were available to local regional teams or to field crews, but seldom centralized for overall network insights. Yet, the ecosystem changes are straining this part of the grid that was not designed to cope with the variable power flows caused by low-carbon technologies. The rise of distributed energy resources (DERs), and the appearance of new loads such as electric vehicles and heat pumps, are forcing this historically stable part of the grid to change and evolve rapidly and dynamically.
So, distribution operators need a bigger, better picture of what’s happening in the LV grid to provide the best service to customers and to make the most of utility resources. With digitization distribution, operators no longer need to make assumptions about power flowing through the network or the quality of service customers receive. At the same time, network information needs to be available to field crews as they are working on the network, enabling real-time visibility as well as the ability to manage and execute their work directly from the field via smartphones, tablets and laptops.