By Allan Tan
Power grid management is a global concern. As the world turns more digital, its reliance on stable power becomes even more pronounced. In the third of a four-part series, we look at how Huawei’s Leading New ICT offers a better approach to tackling power transmission challenges in a connected world.
Businesses’ innovation needs power. It is the reason why power grids have become vital to city development and growth.
Managing power grids is also complex. With businesses shifting to digital models and city residents increasingly reliant on steady power supply for daily living, power grid management needs to be streamlined and more transparent.
According to Ravi Krishnaswamy, Vice President for Energy and Environment at Frost & Sullivan, governments across Asia are at various stages of smart energy initiatives, many of which aligned around smart city projects. “The overarching reason for this interest is around energy efficiency across the value chain. At the moment, power utility use is very inefficient with a lot of wastage from generation to distribution. It is also very difficult to accurately measure and match demand and supply. Smart energy projects that provide real information to optimized supply are very promising.”
He added that smart grid projects can be daunting and very complex, and as such present significant challenges for governments and organizations to pursue.
Huawei believes that ICT will play a bigger role in power grid management. “In a sense, future grids will be a product of the deep integration between electricity infrastructures and ICT,” said Jerry Ji, President of Energy Industry, Enterprise Business Group, Huawei Technologies Co., Ltd.
For this integration to happen, utility providers need to upgrade their traditional grids. It is an area where Huawei is looking to take the lead with its Leading New ICT vision.
Powering through Leading New ICT
Efficiency is hardcoded into Huawei’s Leading New ICT. “In Huawei's vision, the electric power industry can use fewer bits to drive more watts by building full connections between consumers and energy enterprises, between energy enterprises and power grids, between power grids and consumers, and between consumers and energy service providers,” said Ji.
Such connections will allow smarter management of power grids. For example, companies in Europe and the U.S. have started to correlate the massive data generated by smart electric meters with weather data and building information, extracting value from the data through deep analysis and data mining.
According to Huawei, the benefits are two-fold. On one hand, electricity companies and enterprise users obtain insights into electricity consumption details, which can help to improve responses to electricity demands. On the other hand, power utilities can allow authorized users to access their electricity consumption data, thereby helping them implement fine management of energy demands and consumption.
Leading New ICT can tame the explosive demand for power that utility companies are experiencing. It can allow them to adapt and quickly respond with the right solutions.
For example, in Thailand, the frenzied growth of electricity business is driven by the rapid increase of data and video services. As a result, the bandwidth requirements of the backbone network have exceeded 10 Gbps, prompting some electricity companies to pilot 8 Tbps WDM networks.
Countries like China are already investing heavily in smart power distribution networks, and Leading New ICT’s value proposition resonates well with these plans. China’s Power Distribution Network Construction & Reform Action Plan, recently released by the Chinese National Energy Administration, will see a US$314-billion upgrade of power distribution network between 2015 and 2020, and the construction of smart distribution networks.
Leading New ICT will also allow alternative power networks to reap the benefits of new energy, which account for an increasingly higher percentage of people's power consumption. At the end of 2012, the total installed wind and solar or PV power generation capacity reached 63 GW, making up 20% of the electricity consumed in the same year. By 2050, new energy will account for 80% of that. In Germany, the Renewable Energy Act requires that power generated by renewable energies should always be preferentially fed to the grid.
A Smarter Way to Power Transmission Efficiency
Traditional grids rely on traditional energy, mainly thermal power and hydropower. Power plants are centralized and transmit energy unidirectionally. Energy is managed top-down with a low level of informatization.
Huawei’s Leading New ICT vision offers a smarter approach. A good example is the deployment of Hi-PLC, or broadband PLC. PLC stands for power-line communication where electrical wires carry both power and data.
According to an industry expert, PLC is always the preferred choice of electric power companies as it saves money and ensures communication quality. Traditional PLC technology has a low transmission rate and poor communication reliability. Huawei’s broadband PLC technology supports a communication rate of over 2 Mbps – more than 20 times that of traditional PLC technologies.
Huawei broadband PLC uses self-adaptive frequency band selection technology to dynamically select high quality frequency bands, avoid communication noise present in traditional PLC technologies, and significantly improve reliability compared to traditional PLC.
“In Huawei AMI projects, smart meters with Huawei broadband PLC modules installed achieved a 100% success rate. Huawei broadband PLC also supports IPv6 and makes grids accessible to a large number of intelligent terminals. According to the practices in China, and Nigeria, high-speed, 2 Mbps, and bi-directional Huawei broadband PLC is the optimal choice for the AMI solution,” said Ji.
Such solutions helped Nigeria to tackle power infrastructure issues. The incumbent utility company IKEDC was unable to purchase extra electricity, upgrade its grids, or provide new services to consumers due to inefficiency. With frequent outages, public protests became a common scene at the company’s doorsteps.
Huawei helped IKEDC reduce line loss from 46% to 11%. In addition, the utility company gained visibility into the reasons for the daily line loss. Half a year after the completion of the project, IKEDC’s income increased significantly, allowing it to upgrade its facilities to meet citizen demands. The percentage of uncollected bills dropped from 53.3% to 9.2% with better visibility and clamping down on electricity theft and usage from unregistered users.
The Future is in Super Grids
Leading New ICT will become increasingly crucial as new super grids come online. For example, the European Super Grid will cover all of Europe, connecting coastal wind power generators, pumped-storage power plants in the north, and solar farms in the south to Europe's load centers — the United Kingdom, Germany, and France. In the future, energy from desert solar farms in Africa will be fed into the grid.
The U.S. Grid 2030 program aims to connect the country's grids and interconnect with Canada and Mexico, which can lead to optimal utilization of electricity on a wider scope.
Meanwhile, the Asian Super Grid aims to develop wind and solar power in Mongolia's Gobi region, hydropower and thermal power in Russia's Far East region, wind and solar power in China, and PV and wind power in South Korea and Japan. The result will be a Pan Asian multinational grid connecting Russia, China, Mongolia, South Korea, and Japan, with a total transmission distance of 36,000 kilometers.
Leading New ICT allows these grids to co-exist with traditional and new energy, distributed sources of power supplies, bi-directional flow of electricity, and a high level of marketization and intelligence. It zeroes in on the challenges that power grid projects often face—reliability, green and efficiency—enabling them to meet their goals and expectations.
Frost’s Krishnaswamy estimates the market for smart energy in Asia will be about US$45 billion in 2016, a double digit growth from the previous year. “The pockets of innovation will be on the distribution end where the consumer is involved. This is where we will see a lot of innovation among power companies in terms of how they engage with customers and provide them with new solutions. There is a lot of opportunity for energy savings whether it is based on IT or core power technology. The other area is a significant improvement on the energy storage side – where we will increasingly find low cost solutions coming to market.”
1) Leading New ICT is the vision of Huawei Enterprise Business Group. It relates to an open platform and ecosystem where developers can benefit by building their innovations under new ICT technologies.
2) This article is part of a four-part series. In the final part of this four part series, we will look at how Leading New ICT fulfills city administrators’ vision for a Safe City.