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Energy Mapping in the Digital Age

Dec 5, 2018

The power grid was built on the premise of bulk generation transmitting high voltage, converted to low voltage, to customers.  Get ready for disruption to that system because power distribution is changing! New demands, new technology, and new players are making way for more distributed energy resources (DER). Remember the telecom boom, or what Netflix did to cable? The same thing is happening to our power grids.

This is a topic the QUEST Leaders’ Dialogue is very familiar with. The utilities of tomorrow need to manage existing bulk generation while also being proactive players, and in many case partners, to leverage the benefits of this new way of providing energy to customers.  It also means finding new ways to integrate and use energy data (e.g. end use, demand, storage and production from DER), for both internal and external applications. Utilities need to ensure they have a robust model of their grid, network connectivity, and characteristics of energy end use and production enabled by DER, and this includes bringing together these data elements in geographic information systems (GIS).

Communities are increasingly involved in determining their energy future through the development of Community Energy Plans.  Through this process, they must collect data about energy use for quantifying baseline energy usage and GHG emissions, set reduction targets, and monitor and measure results.  They must also have access to data about the built environment, land use, renewable resource availability, climate conditions, transportation, and more. Smart Energy Communities are increasingly using GIS as a means to visualize historical energy end-use data and model future end-use scenarios across the community. 

The challenge that is shared by all communities and utilities is the ability to access and integrate an increasing volume of data into GIS. This points to the need for interoperable data exchange standards as well as for policy change. 

What is GIS?

Geographic Information Systems,  or GIS, enables the integration, analysis, and visualization of geospatially-referenced data in order to satisfy one or more objectives such as improving decision making, planning, policy-making, and other activities. 

What does this mean for communities?

Communities are increasingly using GIS to produce maps of energy use, renewable resource availability, land use, in essence visualizing their Community Energy Plans.  With GIS they are able to make siting decisions (for DER), calculate energy costs and savings, GHG emissions reduction potential, and to manage and monitor energy performance and return on investment. This task is by no means easy and is limited to available data, interoperability (or lack of), privacy compliance, the budget and technical skills of each community.

 What does this mean for utilities?

It is commonplace for energy utilities to maintain a GIS to store their distribution network model, information about their assets, and to support operations, outage restoration, infrastructure planning, customer information, and in a few cases integrate smart-metered energy and weather data.  There is growing interest in the power distribution domain for high-quality GIS data. One of the key drivers for this is the distribution world undergoing major changes.

All of the utilities’ assets, grid components, and their behaviour have a location in time and space – this includes a growing number of DER being integrated by diverse players, including for example energy service and technology providers, energy management application providers and renewable energy installers, servicing residential, commercial, industrial, and government customers.   Geospatial data and Grid model data are two foundational datasets for utilities. Grid Model and Network model data underpin many future applications that will be deployed for DER and to optimize the distribution grid.

For utilities, maintaining good quality Network and GIS models is as crucial as exchange standards such as OGC geospatial standards if we are to cope with the information deluge that comes with increasing penetration of DER in the distribution world.

 The data needed is not always readily available

The challenge that is shared by all communities and utilities is the ability to not only access and seamlessly integrate data, (data from energy production & end use, building, land use, sensor, networks etc.,) but also to develop historical and forecast scenarios. Better forecasting of energy use and GHG emissions is required in order to better manage energy and cost performance and improve decision making.

“The cross-section of measured, modelled, and simulated data could significantly improve energy performance of municipal and utility-owned public buildings and infrastructure in Canada and the United States.” ~Mapped Out, Renew Magazine, E. Oldfield and D. MacPherson, July 2014

This underlying data challenge points to a need for better policy coordination between all levels of government) and the adoption of interoperable geospatial (OGC) standards to unlock the potential of energy data for meeting Canada’s energy and GHG emissions reduction targets while contributing to GDP growth through both job creation and improved efficiencies.

The need for policy change

In part addressing this need, the 2018 Energy & Mines Ministers Conference resolved to improve energy data access, while the Federal Government has explored the potential for a Canadian Energy Information System or Agency. This was also recommended as part of QUEST’s Atlantic Canada Energy Data Roadmap.

The House of Commons Standing Committee on Natural Resources Report on Energy Information, which QUEST provided testimony on, also outlined the need for more access to energy data in a timely, meaningful, and privacy-protected fashion.

Join us at the December OGC Energy Summit

Canada is a world leader in Geospatial Data Infrastructure with Natural Resources Canada serving as Strategic Member with the Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC), a geospatial standards organization. OGC’s Energy & Utilities Domain Working Group is holding its second Energy Summit this December to highlight key market needs and pain-points, such as network model data management to visualizing community energy data, and to share technical solutions using interoperable geospatial Standards. Many GIS solutions are compliant with OGC standards and participate in advancing those standards. If you are interested in learning more check out the presentations from the first OGC Energy Summit in 2017.

For 2018, we helped frame the Summit agenda around “Smart Energy Utilities, Communities, and Networks”.  This Summit brings together leading experts to share world-class research and examples demonstrating the benefits of interoperable geospatial standards.  Not only will this contribute to standards development, it will ensure that in the future, communities, utilities, energy service providers, developers, policymakers, researchers, investors and consumers, have access to interoperable technical solutions and data to support decision-making needs and solve key pain-points, as they transition to Smart Energy Communities, Smart Energy Utilities, Solution Providers, and Prosumers.  

The second Energy Summit takes place on 11 December 2018, during the OGC Technical Committee Meeting taking place in Charlotte, NC, and hosted by the Electric Power Research Institute.  For details visit our to register: http://ogcmeet.org/

How do I learn more?

If your community is also thinking about how to make this possible, visit us online or send us an email at [email protected] and we can talk about what kind of energy mapping would benefit you most.

This is the 2nd blog is a series of 5 by Eddie Oldfield on energy mapping and data.

Read the 1st blog in the series – What the Heck is Energy Mapping

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