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Do Your Systems Have What it Takes for Grid Modernization?

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Historically, electric grid practices assumed large, dispersed generation facilities, hierarchical control systems, and a one-way power flow to passive loads. Those assumptions no longer hold true. The exciting notion of grid modernization helps address these challenges.

Grid Modernization Hinges on Better:

  • Design and Planning Tools
  • Devices and Integrated Systems
  • Institutional Support
  • Security and Resilience
  • Sensing and Measurement
  • System Operations, Power Flow, and Control

The US Department of Energy (DOE) established its Grid Modernization Initiative (GMI) to address industry changes. The DOE studied how to do this while also improving reliability, resilience, security, affordability, flexibility, and sustainability.  It’s a very tall order with profound impacts to utility information systems.

The GMI defined six technical areas requiring work. Serious work is needed in these areas to realize the DOE’s vision. Consider these six areas when evaluating your own stakeholder priorities for grid modernization. This blog will look briefly at each of the six areas and what they mean for utility information systems.

1. Design and Planning Tools

Today’s common tools use very simplified models of the power system. These tools are adaptations of old computing methods and are simply not up to the task of managing the complexity of a modern grid. A more detailed model of the entire electric system is required.

2. Devices and Integrated Systems

Many new devices are necessary to achieve the aggressive goals for the grid. To integrate such devices on a large scale, they must be able to communicate with each other and the digital systems that control them. Such management is built on a digital twin, or digital simulation of the physical assets. A complete new model, adequate to support engineering and operational systems is essential to achieving grid modernization.

3. Institutional Support

On top of the tough technical requirements, there are straightforward needs to communicate with all stakeholders more effectively. Stakeholders need clear, concise information to make the best investment decisions. Maps and up-to-date visualization techniques can help communicate the important ideas quickly.

4. Security and Resilience

To ensure the security and resilience of a modern grid, utilities must reduce vulnerability and improved impact assessments of potential threat scenarios. The goal is to more effectively anticipate, prepare for, and rapidly respond to events. Analysis of this kind requires overlaying detailed grid information with other data such as threat locations, asset condition ratings, and weather forecasts.

5. Sensing and Measurement

Improved sensing and measurement capability can increase situational awareness and provide timely decision support. Monitoring system health and predicting outcomes also enables effective response to abnormal conditions and helps to ultimately minimize costs for consumers. This new type of information must be related to assets, and customers, and made readily available to the modern workforce on their devices.

6. System Operations, Power Flow, and Control

Common systems for power modeling, operation, and control do not leverage today’s astonishing computing capabilities. These weary systems are unduly conservative and based on generalized system modeling concepts. These obsolete modeling concepts breakdown when it comes to distributed generation, transportation electrification, and energy storage. Utilities need a new information framework for handling the complexities of a modern grid.


To meet tomorrow’s challenges, utilities need to maintain and deliver greatly expanded network information to all systems and stakeholders. To achieve this, information systems will require higher performance, more elaborate detail, and greater scalability.

Each utility’s prioritized grid modernization roadmap will include the systems to be implemented along the way. Each system has unique information requirements, but few account for the big picture and the entire set of network data uses.

An all-inclusive digital twin can support disparate systems with the network information they need. A single source of information can reduce data related costs while improving consistency, reliability, and safety.

Esri designed its new network modeling framework as an innovative foundation for utility geographic information system (GIS) solutions to support a modern grid and its many systems. The new framework models the entire electric network and underpins grid modernization activities. This capability is built on the out-of-the-box strengths of the core ArcGIS platform. This means even the most sophisticated grid model can be analyzed and presented anywhere in beautiful, color-coded maps that immediately communicate the important ideas.

Esri helps utilities address many of the information needs the DOE considers necessary for grid modernization. Get more information about how Esri’s network modeling framework supports electric utilities.

Pat  Hohl's picture

Thank Pat for the Post!

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Esri, the global leader in geographic information system (GIS) software, builds the most powerful mapping and spatial analytics technology available.

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