Modernization efforts are ramping up for leading European utilities with the rapid proliferation of smart devices extending throughout the electricity grid. Smart meters deliver real-time visibility at the end of the line; line sensors pinpoint faults for enhanced situational awareness; and automated feeder switches immediately reroute electricity around faults to minimize outage impact. While each of these technologies can independently address a specific operational challenge, together, these systems must work in harmony to maximize outcomes.

Many vendors may claim to offer holistic solutions, but only Itron has delivered on this integrated smart grid vision. With more than 190 million smart devices deployed, Itron has built one of the world’s most proven platforms for the modern utility. Whether you are planning to replace legacy distribution automation (DA) systems, or you are evaluating solutions for integrating distributed energy resources (DER), our RF mesh network provides the essential building blocks for the modern utility. The following are five capabilities you should demand when evaluating a grid management solution:

  1. Superior resilience and reliability. For any use case, your network must be reliable and resilient, giving you the ability to see and respond to conditions on the grid in real time, in any environment. A Wi-SUN-based RF mesh network provides superior reliability by designing the network with redundant takeout points and utilizing dynamic routing for self-healing. When a tornado touched down in the state of São Paolo, Brazil, Itron’s RF mesh-based DA network at CPFL provided 100 percent connectivity while local GPRS networks failed to remain operational. CPFL didn’t miss a beat, leveraging its network to quickly identify outages and expedite service restoration.
  2. True edge intelligence and control. Peer-to-peer communications play a vital role in the modernization of the grid. As the density of utility devices increases, additional strain will be placed on centralized communication and control systems. Distributed intelligence can alleviate some of these challenges by enabling devices to collaborate at the edge. While some providers claim to support edge intelligence by coordinating devices from the nearest network gateways, RF mesh supports collaboration between edge devices. This is especially important for mission critical grid operations requiring ultra-low latency response. For example, utilities like Commonwealth Edison in Chicago, utilize device “teaming,” enabling communications between reclosers to immediately identify faults and re-route power around the affected areas.
  3. The ability to connect existing devices to support future use cases. With changing priorities and scarce resources, grid modernization is typically implemented in stages. When you deploy point source solutions to solve today’s business needs, you end up with a patchwork of siloed systems. On the other hand, investing in an open standards-based platform such as Wi-SUN enables you to leverage today’s smart grid investments to solve tomorrow’s challenges. When United Energy began deploying its advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) in 2010, the utility’s initial goal was to track usage and billing. With a simple remote firmware upgrade, they were able to reprogram AMI devices to provide granular sensor data for new grid management use cases such as transformer loading and phase identification, meter-transformer mapping and non-technical loss identification. Enabling a new use case can be as simple as a remote firmware upgrade. The possibilities are endless.
  4. Multi-layered security to harden every attack surface. As intelligent devices proliferate across the grid, so do opportunities for malicious attacks. A secure smart grid platform must be engineered to protect your smart grid system from every threat vector. The network must be encrypted, endpoints securely authenticated and tamper-proofed, and software access restricted for each individual role. When a critical security patch is required in a pinch, all devices need to be upgradable. Itron’s multi-layer security architecture has been engineered from the ground up to provide military-grade protection for every device and application connected to the network.
  5. Flexibility and vendor choice. With a 20-year lifetime on any smart grid investment, you can rest assured that your business needs will evolve over time. The ideal smart grid platform must be able to accommodate this changing environment while supporting a diverse range of solutions. Itron’s RF mesh-based network platform is built on the widely adopted Wi-SUN specification. Our standards-based technology enables an open ecosystem of interoperable solutions from best of breed suppliers, giving you the flexibility you should demand while promoting innovation and price competition.

As you evaluate suppliers for your next smart grid investment, consider how each technology can play a role in a larger integrated ecosystem of solutions. Decisions made in isolation may solve an immediate need while limiting options in the future. Consider the platform as a holistic solution investment. The Itron RF mesh-based platform offers the proven results for today’s challenges while providing the flexibility to address the challenges of tomorrow.

Matthew Smith on Email
Matthew Smith
Matthew Smith has more than 25 years of entrepreneurial experience in the energy, home computer and consumer electronics industries. At Itron, Matthew sets the global business and product strategy for the grid management line-of-business. This involves managing company initiatives to provide networking solutions that enable utility use cases such as FLISR, CVR/IVVC, demand response, distributed energy resource (DER) management and outage management. Prior to Silver Spring Networks Matthew worked at Greenbox Technology, an early leader in customer-facing smart grid applications, where he was head of marketing and sales. Matthew earned his MBA from the Presidio School of Management and his B.S. degree in Computer Science from the University of Pittsburgh.