from-lemons-comes-lemonade

In 2008, the US and the world experienced a financial crash like nothing seen since the Great Depression. This was arguably one of the scariest and unpredictable periods within modern history. Yet, from this brutal experience came many upsides. One was President Obama’s signing of the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. This legislation initially ear-marked approximately $3.5 billion to be used for creating a ‘Smart Grid’. Just like that, the Advanced Metering Infrastructure adoption process began its recent decade-long success story; benefiting customers, utilities, and the AMI providers.

Fast forward to 2020. COVID-19 emerges and creates yet another unprecedented frightening experience for the US and the world. From this brutal experience will emerge yet another series of valuable upsides resulting in a multitude of new, game-changing gains for America.

The US has been actively working to achieve grid modernization since AMI became widely adopted. Developments in substation upgrades have simultaneously accompanied AMI deployments. The result has been modernized substations and endpoint metering. But, the US and the world still finds itself in pursuit of a genuine ‘Smart Grid’. Today, we merely possess a ‘smarter grid’.

However, this recent pandemic will now drive a series of US stimulus funding initiatives. Focus will be placed on our need for infrastructure upgrades. Within this activity will come another round of funding for further modernizing our undeniably aging electric grid infrastructure. Similar to how AMI was catalyzed by 2009 federal funding, the next level of grid-modernizing technology will now be embraced by electric providers. This pandemic-inspired catalyst will be the tip of the spear concerning the acceptance of Advanced Transformer Infrastructure (ATI) technology. This will represent our legitimate next step in achieving genuine grid modernization.

Advanced Transformer Infrastructure is a solution that uses highly accurate self- contained fast and easily installed sensors. These sensors report critical intra-grid data to existing utility operating systems, and/or to a remotely accessible headend software platform. This ATI intra-grid data is unique, timely, accurate, granular….and reliable. The critical data made available by ATI is not otherwise reliably ascertained by algorithms or AMI data. It is captured and reported from the actual source: the historic “black hole” portion of our distribution grids which consists of the expansive assets that connect our modernized substations and AMI meters. This ‘black hole’ is arguably the most dynamic, most vulnerable, and most volatile section within our grid. Yet to this day, it remains the least monitored, the least understood, and therefore a very difficult and costly space for our operators to reactively manage. However, the introduction of ATI flips our decades-long historic paradigm of reactive grid management to a first-ever proactive grid management process.

Right now, Advanced Transformer Infrastructure can:

  • Improve reliability of undeniably aging grid infrastructure. The DOE says the US transformer fleet is now 35-40+ years aged with a 40-year lifespan. Plus, our need for continuous electricity has NEVER been greater especially with our new homebound workforce.
  • Provide remote, perpetual grid monitoring with automated alerts and immediate outage notifications when the need for isolated workforce protection has NEVER been greater.
  • Enable safe grid-edge monitoring of the countless ongoing unplanned load impacts striking the grid (e.g., residential electric vehicle charging stations, reverse energy from DER, cryptocurrency mining, legalized marijuana grows, etc.).
  • Reduce asset fire/wildfire risk by helping avoid future devastation, death, and environmental destruction as the US witnessed in 2017 and 2018.
  • Reduce utility liability risks by avoiding increased insurance costs, lawsuits, and potential bankruptcies for valuable utility operators.
  • Add skilled and unskilled jobs in the US.
  • Drive US tax revenues
  • Drive US export trade revenues
  • Facilitate grid resilience
  • Facilitate decarbonization and clean energy mandates.
  • Enhance cybersecurity protections. Bad actors still attempt to hack our grids!
  • Support emerging artificial intelligence to further strengthen all of the above value propositions.

Advanced Transformer Infrastructure technology is shovel-ready and addresses the aforementioned upsides for the American people now and in the future. Any of the above points are a valid driver for US Federal support. Collectively, this overwhelming list of gains will command stimulus funding, and provide our electric operators with vital intra-grid data.

While the 2008 financial crash led to Federal funding support for the wide adoption of AMI, the 2020 pandemic disaster will lead to the necessary adoption of ATI. Federal funding will provide the means, and the value propositions will support the business case for achieving stakeholder, shareholder, and regulator support.

So, it is true…from lemons comes lemonade. The electric utility industry will now have the opportunity to leverage COVID-induced funding provided for technological advancements that will spur the necessary next step of genuine grid modernization. ATI will help remedy our undeniably aging distribution grid infrastructure challenges, provide substantial value to the American people, and provide operators with cutting-edge capability… starting right NOW.