How to transform Asia-Pacific’s electricity grids

Smart meters and data management systems help build more resilient, efficient and responsive systems

Bangkok city skyline
Bangkok city skyline with power lines. Photo: Getty Images

Asia-Pacific, home to more than half the world’s population and some of its most rapidly expanding economies, will play a pivotal role in the world’s energy transition. The challenge is to meet rising power demand while  working towards carbon reduction goals.

Decreasing the reliance on coal by investing in renewable sources and electrification is already providing new investment opportunities. Consultancy firm Wood Mackenzie projects that there will be Asia-Pacific investments of around $1.8 trillion in renewable energy over the next decade.

Besides attracting finance to fund renewable energy, energy systems and infrastructure also need to be modernised in the Asia-Pacific. Power operators in the region need to recognise that smarter, more digital and resilient grids can help them integrate distributed energy resources such as rooftop solar and customer-sited storage effectively, and unlock the full potential of smart buildings. 

Gridspertise, founded in 2021 to offer cutting-edge sustainable solutions for the transformation of electricity networks, aims to be a trusted partner to distribution system operators in Asia-Pacific. Building on the 20-year experience in smart grids of its parent company Enel, with 75.7 million connection points in eight different countries and more than 2.3 million km of electricity grids, Gridspertise can contribute significantly to the transformation of networks into sustainable and reliable smart grids.

Dozens of power grid operators have already turned to Gridspertise as their strategic partner to accelerate the digitalisation of their distribution networks to the benefit of millions of customers across Europe and South America.

Expansion of smart metering

A critical factor for the development of smart grids is the widespread expansion of smart metering, which is being pursued in developed and developing countries. 

Asia-Pacific is the world’s biggest metering market with around 1.6 billion electricity and gas customers, research from Berg Insight shows. The installed base of smart electricity meters in Asia-Pacific is forecasted to grow steadily over coming years from 757.7 million in 2021 to 1.1 billion in 2027.

Smart meters are the first step towards grid digitalisation, increasing resilience, efficiency and sustainability of the network. Gridspertise’s latest generation smart meters can increase resilience with information on consumption, allowing for real-time monitoring of electricity use, advanced management of the technical parameters of the grid and detecting critical events such as blackouts in near real time. The smart meters also improve billing and collection efficiencies and enable data-driven inspection through energy balance and big-data analytics. 

In addition, Gridspertise meter data management systems help the consolidation of data, use readings to analyse trends and resolve issues related to meter tampering, outages and energy theft. 

Today, Gridspertise has produced over 85 million smart meters based on power line communication technology and is enriching its portfolio with interoperable solutions, including hybrid ones. For this reason, in addition to collaborating with technology partners, Gridspertise has joined the G3 PLC Alliance with the aim of including the technology in its portfolio to tackle the needs of distribution system operators in different geographies and provide a competitive solution for the Asia-Pacific.

Grid resilience and climate change

According to SP Group’s 2021 Smart Grid Index, North American utilities are leading smart grid development, but Europe and Asia-Pacific are close behind and the greatest grid improvement in Asia-Pacific in 2021 was seen in supply reliability.

Grid resilience has become increasingly important to withstand more severe and frequent weather events caused by climate change, such as typhoons, extreme heat, flooding, and other weather complications.

In 2022, the Asia-Pacific region has been grappling with heatwaves including record-breaking temperatures in countries such as India and Pakistan in early months of the year which led to wildfires and power cuts, and heavy rainfall has caused flash flooding from Bangladesh to South Korea.

These extreme weather events, combined with the growing energy demand associated with the electrification of transportation and other final uses, results in higher complexity of power flows as well as the interplay between production and consumption, which require more intelligence at the edge and more adaptability to a dynamic grid.

To tackle these challenges, Gridspertise has developed the QEd - Quantum Edge® device, an all-in-one solution that digitalises essential grid activities, reducing the number of equipment and boosting the agility of secondary substations. QEd enables key network automation functions through customisable applications directly on the edge, such as Grid Automation Management, which can handle any service interruptions or outages quickly and effectively. 

QEd can be integrated with new applications and customised to specific business requirements to increase the resilience of the grids. For this reason, Gridspertise has launched a Co-creation programme to collaborate with Asia-Pacific power grid operators with the aim to enrich the technology with new use cases and functionalities.

Prediction and prevention 

Promptly identifying vegetation and other elements that can interfere with distribution networks is also key to guaranteeing reliable and continuous power and optimising maintenance costs.

Gridspertise’s Digital Asset and Vegetation Intelligence creates a virtual replica of the entire electricity infrastructure and the environment surrounding it, by acquiring and processing datasets provided by laser scanner, photography and sensors.

Through its 3D Viewer and Computer Vision capabilities, it facilitates vegetation visual inspection and predictive maintenance, optimising emergency management. Since 2019, the solution has processed over 158,000 km of grid to enrich the dataset, and provides access to over 4,000 active users across Spain, Brazil, Italy and Colombia, enabling up to 25 per cent savings in vegetation trimming and maintenance activities.

Fast response and restoration

Gridspertise additionally provides technologies and services that can speed up field operations and make them safer. Its Enhanced Workforce solution is a digital toolbox composed of a set of applications leveraging on augmented and virtual reality as well as artificial intelligence, to allow training of employees and a fast and safe intervention in case of environmental disasters.

The future for grids in Asia-Pacific

With several countries in the region establishing net zero targets for the 2050-60 period, investing in grid technology is proving essential to support economies on their growth path while also cutting emissions.

Moreover, as utilities face increasing generation from intermittent sources and the rise in demand linked to electric mobility and other end uses, the growing complexity of power flows management requires more robust and resilient electrical infrastructure. 

The innovation and digitalisation tools offered by Gridspertise can advance this transformation. Its solutions can help local grid operators deal with the load growth, deploying investments in infrastructure in a cost-effective way, with an eye to quality and affordability.

Utilities and grid operators relying on Gridspertise solutions can improve collection efficiency, reduce losses and enhance overall financial health, increasing resilience and quality of service. 

Grid stakeholders can benefit from the deployment of advanced energy service markets, and gain from open platforms on which to monetise their distributed energy resources on the pathway to electrification. 

Finally, end customers enjoy enhanced reliability of electricity supply and can participate in the market as “prosumers”, with their own solar panel systems, electric cars and home batteries.

Preparing distribution grids for the road ahead will require coordinated action between tech companies, grid operators, policy makers, regulators and many other stakeholders, including end users. Gridspertise is ready to support the sector in Asia-Pacific and establish new partnerships to accelerate the digitalization of grids. 

Gridspertise’s solutions will be showcased at Enlit Asia in Bangkok from September 20 to 22.

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