The evolution of global energy landscapes and the aging of power systems have resulted in the need for countless upgrades in the industry’s infrastructure. Indeed, trends for increasing low-cost renewable energy generation in commercial and residential buildings are on the rise and have resulted in economic imbalances between utilities and consumers. Further, these trends have influenced energy generation to become decentralized, creating the need for time- and location-based retail pricing. This has spurred concern over how to modernize the metering and accounting of electricity. Moreover, using what is known as the value of solar (VOS), industry professionals are seeking to set costs and pricing in a way that is fair and equitable to all parties (https://www.nrel.gov/docs/fy15osti/62361.pdf). Valuing solar generation on local levels assists energy systems operators and stakeholders in justly evaluating energy supply and demand options, allowing for optimal energy management. The distributed control technology that is central to this project offers an opportunity for the cable industry to expand its market base in leveraging adaptive demand-side management (A-DSM)(tm) to optimize the rapidly evolving electricity supply chain. In doing so, the cable industry can benefit from energy management opportunities while riding the wave of grid optimization.
This project introduces Grid over Broadband (GoB)(tm), a cable operator initiative that provides critical support for the development, modernization, efficiency, and security of the power grid. GoB allows the best of both networks, the electrical and broadband, to be leveraged for a greater and improved result. Using the superior speed and two-way connectivity of the broadband network enables the existing electrical grid to deliver and manage power in a more effective and efficient way than has ever been possible. Further, GoB provides unique business opportunities for cable operators to leverage existing assets to effectively optimize the efficiency of the grid while simultaneously addressing environmental concerns. Potential customers of the GoB system are stakeholders in the energy value chain. These include energy utilities, companies in the energy ecosystem who service or interconnect with utilities, investors in and developers of renewable energy projects, and industrial, commercial & residential consumers, all of whom who rely on electric power. GoB leverages A-DSM, a newly developed end-to-end technology, resulting in increased grid efficiency and reduced energy cost. The end-to-end scope of GoB is shown in Figure 1.
GoB lowers the cost of electric service and achieves a host of electric grid benefits by applying production cost modeling and model predictive control (MPC) to jointly optimize electric power generation and residential electrical use. Using algorithms that programmatically value solar, other renewable energy sources (RES) and conventional generation at every instant in time, GoB reduces the production cost of electricity which is on the order of $100 billion/year in the U.S. and $500 billion/year worldwide (https://yearbook.enerdata.net/electricity/electricity-domestic-consumption-data.html). Preliminary results indicate a 2 percent reduction in production cost may be possible, representing an annual opportunity of $2 billion in the U.S and a $10 billion worldwide.
The size of the business opportunity of using GoB to reduce electricity production costs is related to the proportional mix of conventional and RES generation technologies. In the near- and long-term, as the generation mix evolves, optimizing output from conventional thermal power plants along with new RES additions will continue to provide financial returns. In steam power plants, the efficiency losses of the 150-year old Rankine cycle result in an average of 2/3 of all the energy used in electricity generation to be rejected as waste heat (https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0306261914012446). The rejected waste heat is related to the latent heat of vaporization and condensation processes -- which produce no electricity. The resulting enormous thermodynamic efficiency losses are shown at the top of Figure 2, which is an energy balance depicting energy flows from sources at left to end uses at right. The thickness of each line denotes the size of the energy flows measured in quadrillion BTUs (Quads). Note the staggering amounts of rejected energy in light gray. This rejected energy is responsible for 2/3 of the cost of generation and is the largest worldwide contributor of thermal and greenhouse gas emissions including sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, and carbon dioxide (https://flowcharts.llnl.gov).
GoB raises efficiency in generation by continuously orchestrating electricity supply and demand throughout the grid. GoB inverts the traditional electricity supply and demand relationship, with supply no longer relegated to following demand, but rather, demand following the lowest cost forms of supply. To do so, GoB accommodates the variable and uncertain nature of RES, enabling more low-cost wind and solar power on the grid, thus reducing production costs. GoB also improves the efficiency of conventional thermal generation including nuclear, natural gas, coal, oil, and biomass-fired power plants. GoB accomplishes this by minimizing the part-load operation of these generators as shown in Figure 3, which depicts the heat rate, a measure of electrical generation efficiency, as a function of thermal generator output power. Note the high generation cost per kWh of electricity at upper left when the generator is running at a low percentage of output power, and the dramatically lower generation cost as the generator approaches 100 percent of output power. Not shown on this graph, but of equal or greater importance are the similar declines in the associated thermal and greenhouse emissions per unit of generated electricity.
GoB’s application of A-DSM to continuously modulate demand throughout the day will be increasingly critical in efficiently managing the smart grid to reliably deliver clean, low-cost electricity. This increasing criticality is due to environmental concerns as well as the steady decline in the cost of new RES generation, resulting in an exponential rise in RES projects. Simply put, in current and upcoming world markets it is cheaper to build new RES than to operate existing thermal generators. These economics are a major driving force for the successful implementation of GoB. Indeed, of the cities receiving at least 70 percent of their power from RES, 57 percent are in Latin America, 20 percent are in Europe, 9 percent are in Africa and 9 percent are in North America (https://insideclimatenews.org/news/27022018/renewable-energy-cities-clean-power-technology-cdp-report-global-warming-solutions). Make no mistake, the increased penetration of RES is already challenging grid operations and limiting the size of residential solar installations in California, Hawaii, and other locations worldwide. As such, the timing of business opportunities for Cable operators to assist municipalities is now. Domestic opportunities include the city of Los Angeles achieving a 100 percent renewable energy powered grid by 2030 and the State of Hawaii achieving 100 percent renewable energy by 2045. And there are countless more projects needing Cable’s help worldwide.
The increased penetration of RES electricity generation presents significant operational challenges as the grid has traditionally been controlled using dispatchable generation that provides electricity to meet demand along with standby (spinning and nonspinning) reserves to meet contingencies. New controls are urgently needed as the generation mix evolves and large-scale, high-inertia thermal generators are replaced by low-inertia RES generation, particularly end-of-line and last-mile distributed generation—for example, rooftop solar photovoltaic panels. This creates opportunities for GoB cable operators to assist energy utilities in deploying advanced supervisory grid control algorithms, such as voltage optimization, volt-var optimization (VVO), conservation voltage reduction (CVR), distribution system optimal power flow, and the provision of bulk power system ancillary services from distributed energy resources (DERs).
The benefits of GoB’s jointly optimizing residential building energy use with conventional and renewable generation are being evaluated at a scale that matters. An ongoing case study reveals the system-wide financial savings in the highly-cable-populated wholesale electric markets managed by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) followed by the California Independent System Operator (CAISO), the Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO), and the PJM Regional Transmission Operator, which collectively supply half of all U.S. electricity.
The GoB project develops the technologies and financial justification necessary to provide an A-DSM orchestration system for advanced power system operations through existing broadband networks; this disruptive innovation will accelerate smart grid technology adoption and ensure Cable’s ability to build innovative offerings that leverage its existing assets.