While the initiatives are beneficial to the environment, Distribution System Operators (DSOs) and utilities are largely unprepared. Today, the focus of electric grid operators and DSOs is no longer restricted to just ensuring the proper functioning of grids and providing consumers with energy security; they need the technological infrastructure to harness data and put it to use.
Just take the example of Stedin, a Dutch DSO that transmits electricity and gas to more than two million households and industrial customers in the Netherlands. Earlier this decade, when the government in Holland announced tax exemptions to buyers of electric vehicles (EVs), Stedin was abruptly faced with a daunting task. As EV charging stations cropped up across the country, electric operators were required to “keep the lights on” across residences while also rerouting energy to power the growing number of EVs. Due to lack of grid transparency and controllability at the mid- and low-voltage level, Stedin found it difficult to meet consumer demands while also managing the distribution grids in a cost-optimised manner.
At this juncture, Stedin turned to Venios, a smart grid specialist that offers IT solutions and consulting services to digitise, analyse, plan, forecast, monitor, and control the conditions of a power grid infrastructure, specifically low- and medium-voltage grids. Over the last two years, Venios has helped Stedin successfully integrate EV charging stations into its distribution grid, giving the DSO the ability to monitor consumption and demand levels in real time and perform fresh analysis of their distribution grid network every 15 minutes.
“Through the Stedin success story, we demonstrated how a smart grid is needed for controlling the charging of EVs—or other loads. Over the last two years, such projects have taken us across borders, in our pursuit to help operators access a transparent, well-controllable, and intelligent distribution grid,” says Dr. Jonas Danzeisen, one of the founders and CEO of Venios, a Germany-based company that works in close collaboration with major grid operators and research institutions.
Venios’ flagship platform, the Venios Energy Platform (VEP), offers a “live view” of the low- and medium-voltage grids, an effective operational grid management tool, and a basis for strategic grid planning. Due to the growing importance of distribution grids, the need to manage them efficiently through automation, lean processes, and intelligent real-time monitoring and control has risen greatly. This is precisely why Venios strives to change the mindset of operators, propelling them to embrace new technologies and the opportunities of digitalising their grids. VEP delivers five key benefits, as described by Danzeisen. Monitoring: to observe the flow of power and voltage, and effectively manage energy assets; Platform Control: distributing energy across substations and the handling of accommodation and storage solutions; Analytics: providing detailed insights into daily, weekly, monthly energy distribution data; and Asset Optimisation: optimising the various energy assets on the distribution grid—for example, using excess electricity for heating.
How great it would be if a DSO knew exactly how the grid of a coverage area would be in 10, 15, or 20 years?
Through such proactive measures, operators can reduce their re-dispatch costs while maintaining grid stability.
The platform also strives to allow utilities to expand their grids and design scenarios for future grids, a function that is currently hindered by regulatory restrictions.
Data, the Straw that Stirs the Drink
Every Venios project begins with the essential question, “what data does the electric operator have access to?”
Venios gathers insights from the client’s existing grid load, which is shown on Geographic Information System (GIS) and asset information, enriched with mathematical models and measurement data. Thereafter, Venios uses the various data subsets to calculate grid flows, and these calculations or real-time depictions of the grid can be further enhanced by Smart Meter data. Venios also takes into account socioeconomic data and weather data to make predictions about the future state of the client’s grids. Venios’ data collection process is critical since classic SCADA systems are not effective in the lower voltage grids as there is excessive data for these systems to ingest.
This level of data-driven visibility allows Venios’ clients to execute strategic grid planning and ensure system stability for the future. “How great it would be if a DSO knew exactly how the grid of a coverage area would be in 10, 15, or 20 years? VEP can use socioeconomic data to calculate various scenarios so clients can make valid and reliable investment decisions,” adds Danzeisen. Furthermore, VEP forecasts based on enerVance tools are invaluable for clients in their grid planning approach.
Whether it is a DSO, a utility, or an enterprise, the ultimate gain remains the same. Through VEP, clients can optimise their CAPEX and OPEX.
A System Integrator at its Core
Besides economic gains, Venios’ clients stand to benefit from existing investments since VEP is scalable and can be integrated with other solutions and services, including upcoming smart meter and intelligent transformer substations. The platform’s simple UI even allows less-experienced DSO employees make certain decisions and to free up more experienced or qualified colleagues to focus grid planning. According to Danzeisen, Venios’ “cooperative structure” enables collaboration between the front and back offices. “We ensure that operators can fuse new technologies into their existing structures without having to spend billions of dollars,” adds Danzeisen. As part of its growing ecosystem, Venios has also partnered with Phoenix Contact—a leading Germany-based technology company that produces hardware for grid stations, renewable plants, and transformer stations—with Venios being their IOT partner for grid operations.
The future seems bright for Venios, a company with a history of anticipating industry trends and aligning its goals accordingly. Long before its inception in 2012, co-founders Danzeisen and Dr.rer.nat. Christian Köhler foresaw the need for a solution to intelligently integrate EV charging stations into the grid. As the energy industry continues to design new ways to lessen CO2 levels, Venios plans to stay a step ahead of the curve.
Steering ahead, Venios is determined to help electric operators overcome the most significant challenge—gaining transparency into the modern power grid infrastructure. “We will continue to put the control back into the hands of the utilities, by ensuring transparency in the energy supply,” concludes Danzeisen.