Technology Solutions for an Evolving Grid – 2021 IEEE Innovative Smart Grid Technologies (ISGT) Conference

Arnie de Castro By Arnie de Castro, SAS Institute

Initiatives for the “Smart Grid” at the beginning of the millennium bring promise for ensuring grid reliability, quality and security, allowing customers to participate in optimizing the operation of the system, accommodating active demand-side assets of all sizes and technologies, assuring sustainability and improving the efficiency of the grid.

A lot of things have been impacting the industry of late that the smart grid addresses. COVID-19 has caused not just reductions but also shifts in load from commercial to residential, disrupting patterns of load consumption and flow. Cyber-attacks continue, not just by home-styled hackers but by well-funded national organizations. Renewable energy is becoming cheaper and more efficient, introducing considerable variability to the load and putting more pressure on the ramping capabilities of grid generators. The production and sales of electric vehicles continue to increase despite expiring government credits, increasing the burden on distribution systems and even negating the impact of time-of-use pricing by creating new peaks, while new technologies promise cleaner, safer, more affordable battery solutions.

The 2021 IEEE Innovative Smart Grid Technologies (ISGT) Conference this coming February 16-18 showcases how the industry addresses these challenges.

Keynote Speakers

A keynote address from a utility industry leader will highlight each day of the conference – Dennis V. Arriola who is the Chief Executive Officer of AVANGRID, Inc., Gil Quiniones, President and CEO of the New York Power Authority (NYPA) and Elliot Mainzer, President and CEO of CAISO. Following are some quick notes about the companies that our keynote speakers represent and their smart grid activities.

AVANGRID began as a group of regional utility companies five years ago and is now a leading sustainable energy company. Its electric and gas companies serve millions of customers. It has two of the biggest clean energy projects in the Northeast U.S. and maintains a leading renewables fleet. It is developing the nation’s first commercial-scale offshore wind project. It was also recently granted approval by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for the New England Clean Energy Connect (NECEC) Clean Energy Corridor. The NECEC is a renewable energy project being built by AVANGRID to bring hydropower from Quebec to Maine and other parts of New England.
The New York Power Authority is the nation’s largest state-owned power organization. It has 16 generating facilities and more than 70 percent of the electricity it produces is clean renewable hydropower. The New York Power Authority produces some of the cheapest electricity in North America. Its business customers range from Fortune 100 giants to small manufacturing or service firms, and it sells power to government agencies, to community-owned electric systems and rural electric cooperatives, to private utilities and to neighboring states. It is on its path to becoming the nation’s first end-to-end digital electric utility. NYPA is actively engaged in its digital transformation with its three signature Digital Energy Services: NY Energy Manager (NYEM), Advanced Grid Innovation Laboratory for Energy (AGILe Lab), and Integrated Smart Operations Center (iSOC). Other NYPA initiatives include its cybersecurity control center, its COVID-19 response and its support in rebuilding Puerto Rico’s power grid.

The California Independent System Operator (CAISO) is a non-profit Independent System Operator serving 80 percent of California and part of Nevada, and facilitating both full Energy and Ancillary Services market in California, and an Energy Imbalance Market involving several Balancing Areas in different westerns states. It maintains the reliability of California’s bulk electric power system, one of the largest and most modern power grids in the world. It operates the market for electricity generated and transmitted by its member utilities. CAISO has been leading the nation in renewables, which have given rise to the infamous duck curve. There are other trends that further impact their operations – retirement of gas capacity, further increase in solar and wind generation, increase in imports, tightening regional supply conditions and growing reliance on demand response.

Plenary and Panel Sessions

In three plenary sessions, industry experts will cover the following topics.
Operational, Regulatory and Policy Needs to Facilitate Cost Effective Integration of Large-scale Renewables. In this session Sebastian Libonatti of Avangrid, Jenny Erwin of the Working for Advanced Transmission Technologies (WATT) Coalition and Neil Millar of CAISO will cover robust integration methods combining policies, rules, and procedures for grid expansion to maximize the cost effectiveness of incorporating variable renewable energy into the power system while maintaining or increasing system stability and reliability.

Key Success Factors for Resilient and Decarbonized Grid. This session will have Damir Novosel of Quanta Technology, David Ortiz of FERC, Michael Pesin of U.S. DOE and Christopher Root or Vermont Electric Power discuss the impact of electrification and fuel transformation on decarbonization and economic growth, the relationship between a hybrid, modernized grid and resilient, safe, reliable, and efficient energy delivery, and how investments can be prioritized to achieve reliability and resilience targets in the most cost-effective way.

Distributed Grid-Edge and Behind-the-Meter Technologies. This session will feature Tom Bialek of San Diego Gas and Electric, Summer Ferreira of Sandia National Laboratories, Principal Market Architect Lorenzo Kristov, and Tom Pierpoint of Austin Energy, who will cover their work on grid-edge and behind-the-meter technologies that support distributed energy resources and enable grid modernization and resiliency.

The program also includes a paper poster session and twenty-four panel sessions where utility practitioners will discuss recent work with resiliency, cybersecurity, artificial intelligence and machine learning; advanced computational methods; renewable resources and distributed energy resource management systems, transmission planning ang grid modernization, microgrid and distribution system operations and planning; IoT, grid-edge measurements, block chain and transactive energy systems; and EVs, energy storage and smart inverter systems.

Virtual Conference

This year’s ISGT conference will be held virtually in view of travel bans and limitations on public gatherings. The virtual format allowed us to make some programming adjustments in order to reach a broader audience and ensure that all sessions are accessible to every participant. Sessions are pre-recorded and will be made available before the conference. Live Q&A sessions are scheduled for interaction with the mix of academic researchers, utility experts, government resources and engineering suppliers presenting. Attendees can expect a multiple-faceted view of the industry and the evolving digital grid.