IBM has announced the launch of the Smarter Energy Research Institute, a research collaboration model aimed at accelerating innovation across the global energy and utilities market. Hydro-Québec (Canada), Alliander (Netherlands) and DTE Energy (USA) are the first members.
The Institute has been formed by IBM’s corporate research and the energy & utilities industry operations to bring together predictive analytics, system optimisation and advanced computation to deliver better services to customers. It combines IBM Research’s expertise in mathematics and high-performance computing with the engineering and operational know-how of the members.
The Institute will focus on five core innovation tracks, with member companies active in one or two tracks that match their business priorities. The areas include:
Outage Planning Optimisation – reducing the amount of time a customer is without power
Asset Management Optimisation – improving the allocation of capital and operational expenses in upgrades and maintenance
Integration of Renewables and Distributed Energy Resources (DER) – meeting integration and distribution targets while ensuring system stability
Wide-Area Situational Awareness – detecting anomalies across the grid to improve resiliency and energy quality
The Participatory Network – using an engagement model to transform relationships with consumers
Expected outcomes include equipping members with the ability to improve planning and reliability of operations through the use of prediction and optimisation. In the area of renewable energy resources, which are prone to variability, companies can leverage technologies to increase the accuracy of forecasts and better balance the supply and demand of electricity and ensure system reliability.
The Smarter Energy Research Institute operates out of the global network of IBM Research labs while leveraging additional research and infrastructure operated by the members. There’s more information at: www.research.ibm.com.
Review: As the development and implementation of smart grids progresses, so the longer-term challenges are coming to the fore. It’s about coping with the variability in renewable energy supply and consumer demand as well as making the supply and delivery of energy more efficient and reliable.
While renewable energy is a significant driving force, the more intelligent infrastructure inherent in smart grids creates a lot of other opportunities for better service delivery. Data fed back from the grid (we’re talking Big Data here) has the potential to be used to better forecast grid performance and how power can best be distributed. That’s what this research collaboration is about.
There’s significant market potential, given the scale of operations, so the Research Institute will help IBM get on the inside track with utilities around the world.