For decades, the energy system has responded to an analogical and unidirectional model: energy was produced in power generation plants and distributed to consumers, who used it in their homes, shops, factories, as well as for public use in towns and cities. Today, technology and the energy transition towards a decarbonized economy offer many other possibilities, which are only feasible if the networks –the backbone of the electricity system– become more robust and, above all, more flexible and intelligent infrastructures. .
“The digitization of electrical networks is an essential step since they act as an enabler of decarbonization. Without its digitization, the integration into the system of renewable generation, self-consumption, mobility and air conditioning would not be possible,” says Estibaliz Goñi, director of Processes and Technology at i-DE, the group’s electricity distribution company. Iberdrola in Spain. The operation of the smart grid is more complex than that of the traditional grid; It covers all the technological infrastructure that will be needed, from energy generation, transportation and distribution, to electrical storage and consumption of the generated energy.
The digitization of electrical networks is an essential step since they act as an enabler of decarbonization”
In turn, today electrical networks act as a facilitating element in the electrification of the economy. Maintaining their efficiency, quality and robustness, they have to respond to the sustainable solutions that customers increasingly demand. In general, distributed renewable energy generation and electric vehicle charging are changing the consumption habits of citizens and, for example, a change is observed in the hours in which consumption was traditionally concentrated and customers are also converting in electricity producers.
These modifications have a great impact on the electricity transmission and distribution networks, responsible for conducting it from generation to consumption. If traditionally they were static and unidirectional, now they must respond to a new environment in which energy flows bidirectionally.
Today, electrical networks act as a facilitating element in the electrification of the economy
For this reason, there is a need for greater communication between the points of consumption and the control centers, applying “intelligence” to all the systems that support the operation of the network and the provision of services to all the agents connected to it.
more informed customers
The digitization of the network has also brought with it the empowerment of the customer. Now he can know his consumption curves in real time, as well as the maximum power demand or the way in which electrical energy consumption is distributed, among other data, which gives him greater decision-making capacity by allowing him, for For example, choose the rate that best suits your circumstances.
The digitalization of the network has also brought with it the empowerment of the client
In addition, with remote management, a more responsible use of the entire cycle is made. The remote management system allows knowing the status of each node, segment and element, increasing the operational efficiency and effectiveness of the lines. On the other hand, everything related to the supply point and services can be managed remotely and quickly, which makes it possible, for example, to detect anomalies before they occur, reducing incidents and their duration. Likewise, an automated and digitized network allows to detect fraud and minimize losses.
Taking into account the advantages provided by the digitization of the network, and to move towards a carbon-neutral economy in 2050, Iberdrola will be committed to digitizing more than 80% of its transmission and distribution networks by 2025 and will allocate 27,000 to its network business. million euros to develop its activity globally. Of these, 5% will be assigned to Spain, which will mean 1,350 million euros. In recent years, Iberdrola has invested more than 100 million euros annually in innovation projects to continue advancing in the digitization of electricity networks. In Spain, said investment will follow a path of growth of up to 25% over the next five years and will find in the hub that the company has in Bilbao, the Global Smart Grids Innovation Hubone of its poles of activity.
Iberdrola will bet on digitizing more than 80% of its transmission and distribution networks by 2025
He Global Smart Grids Innovation Hub It emerged in 2021 with the aim of creating an ecosystem of innovation in the field of smart networks. The center acts as a meeting point for nearly a hundred technology companies, start-ups, SMEs and other collaborators -such as universities and associations- in order to create a collaborative environment among all and offer development opportunities to professionals in the field. future.
Its main lines of work are focused on developing projects that can be scaled to the rest of the countries in which Iberdrola is present as an electricity distributor. These are market-oriented projects in areas such as digitization and network automation. “From the Global Smart Grids Innovation Hub, the group intends to double innovation projects in smart grids in the coming years, consolidating and expanding the current successful model of collaboration with manufacturers of electrical equipment”, says its manager, Noemí Alonso. In short, i-DE uses innovation as a pillar of efficiency in the ambitious project to digitize the electricity grid, an unavoidable path in the decarbonization of the economy.
Innovative and sustainable initiatives
i-DE, the electricity distribution company of the Iberdrola group, is committed to providing the network with new functionalities that provide digitization and flexibility in Spain
i-DE develops innovative solutions aimed at finding a balance between the coexistence of infrastructures and sustainability, which help to accelerate the decarbonisation of the economy.
In the field of smart grids, the company has developed R+D+i projects worth 32 million euros and has numerous initiatives underway. This is the case of the digital twins of power transformers, a tool that consists of simulating a virtual model of these elements that make up the network to improve efficiency, since it allows optimization of maintenance processes, improvement of operation and support in taking decisions on the renewal of the elements. Another example of this technology is Building Information Modeling (BIM), which makes it possible to obtain a three-dimensional model of substations that provides support in the management and maintenance of facilities.
The substation robot, R0V3RT, is another of the star developments of the Global Smart Innovation Hub. It is a robot designed to support the workers responsible for the maintenance of i-DE substations. Thanks to its artificial intelligence capabilities, it detects anomalies and anticipates possible incidents. At the moment, i-DE is testing the capacity of this new equipment that could be part of the substations of the future thanks to its remote control and its automated navigation capacity, which allows it to capture information from its 360º camera and thermographic vision, the microphone and optical zoom.
Public charging points
Favoring and promoting the installation of self-consumption in urban areas and the penetration of electric vehicles is another of i-DE’s commitments in its support for decarbonisation. To get to know the needs of citizens up close, i-DE collaborates with the municipal managers of the Sustainable Urban Mobility Plans (PMUS) in advising on the deployment of public charging points. A close example is the case of the Benidorm city council, with which i-DE has collaborated in the technical feasibility study for the deployment of around a thousand public charging points for both urban and private transport.
In this sense, the company works to develop increasingly efficient and automated urban distribution networks, incorporating flexibility criteria to serve current and future consumption demands, promoting an innovative solution through a tool that helps to plan the distribution network. medium and low voltage in urban areas.
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