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What role does the Internet of things play for grid operators and consumers?

The energy industry is changing: coal-fired power plants and nuclear reactors are giving way to wind turbines and solar panels to meet our future energy needs. What role will the Internet of things play for grid operators and consumers?

The energy industry is becoming more and more environmentally friendly. Although coal-fired and nuclear power plants used to be the main source of electricity, thousands of wind turbines, biogas plants and solar parks are producing energy. The proportion of renewable energy in total electricity consumption continues to grow: in 2000, 6% of German electricity came from green energy, but by 2019, this figure has risen to 42%. This means that according to the Renewable Energy Act (EEG) of the German government, the goal of successful transition to renewable energy has been achieved: by 2025, more than 40% of Germany's electricity consumption will come from green energy.

Controlling smart grid with digital solutions

The increase in the share of renewable energy means that carbon dioxide emissions are decreasing. However, the energy market also faces new challenges, such as managing decentralized power plants, greater reliance on weather conditions and reliable transmission and distribution of electricity to the grid. Current grid management is very simple: grid operators can easily coordinate power generation, distribution and storage by controlling only a few power plants. They always know how much electricity each plant will provide and when. In addition, according to the current grid load, the power plant can be shut down or started.

However, the more decentralized the energy supply, the more complex the control of the power grid. Wind turbines supply electricity only when the wind blows, while solar energy generates electricity only when the sun shines. Today, tens of thousands of distributed generator sets supply power to the power grid. In order to avoid grid overload or load shortage, companies in the energy industry must be able to respond at any time to start or shut down generator sets. This is a task for the energy sector, which is difficult to solve without digital support.

How can grid operators obtain power consumption data?

According to a recent Gartner study, in addition to decentralization, decarbonization and democratization, digitization, especially the Internet of things (IOT), will be the core element of changing the power supply structure to expand renewable energy. The introduction of smart meter and Internet of things solutions will help grid operators obtain real-time information on the status of smart grid. Therefore, power producers, whether private households or energy service providers, must send data through local Internet of things devices.

Then, the data from fixed and mobile networks are evaluated and integrated by artificial intelligence on a cloud based central Internet of things platform. Such data can be used to automatically control the smart grid, and fluctuations in the grid can be absorbed through the smart energy management system. AI can also use this data to quickly detect grid bottlenecks or potential overloads. In addition, it simplifies the maintenance of the system. For example, the intelligent sensor on the wind turbine can monitor the motor status and give an alarm immediately when the reading is abnormal.

The Internet of things not only allows you to control and optimize the current network, but also the newly acquired data can create new business models. For example, power dealers can sell the remaining power to electric vehicle owners, so as to effectively convert vehicle batteries into energy storage devices.