The switch to sustainable energy is essential; indeed, the energy sector is in the midst of an unprecedented transition associated with an ever increasing level of decentralisation and digitalisation, that should ultimately lead to a carbon-free grid by 2050.
In 2019, only around 11% of global energy supply came from renewable sources, whereas today the world is experiencing an impressive rate of adoption of renewable generation. As this switch takes place, more organisations are facing challenges that include grid instability and the intermittency of renewable energy sources that requires battery energy storage to be connected to the grid. To address these, it is essential that cost-effective solutions become available to analyse, predict and manage the multitude of assets across different segments of the grid.
Digital disruption in the energy sector
Speaking with Dr. Irene Di Martino, executive vice president of Amp and Head of Amp X, delves into the company’s position within the industry and how Amp X provides its parent company with the benefits of artificial intelligence (AI).
“In my career to date, I’ve been witnessing the most significant transition of the energy sector from a largely fossil-fuel-based ecosystem to one that is now creating the conditions to accelerate the transformation of the grid itself,” says Dr. Di Martino. “The digital energy space is clearly one of the most disruptive, and it’s the one we’re trying to make a game-changing contribution to with Amp X.”
Dr. Di Martino describes Amp as an ‘innovator’ and a ‘disruptor’ as she outlines how the organisation has developed energy infrastructure for over 12 years, expanding its operational portfolio from solar energy applications to battery energy storage and wind. Amp recognised very early on that battery storage is an essential technology in the energy transition, but that realising the full potential benefits of investments would require highly efficient and responsive operational capabilities.
The formation of Amp X was a strategic response for monitoring, controlling and optimally dispatching energy assets across different markets and segments of the grid. Leveraging AI and ML capabilities, Amp X’s digital platform monitors the health and performance of different assets, and uses proprietary algorithms to gain insights into system activity, from grid-level infrastructure to individual behind-the-metre appliances and electric vehicle chargers.
Amp X has developed its robust predictive models to assess the impact of weather conditions on both the production of solar and wind energy and trends in demand, enabling the prediction of pricing and delivering optimised dispatch of battery storage assets.
“It is thanks to the insights gained from data through the use of appropriate and proprietary AI algorithms, that Amp X has developed a number of interoperable solutions which are not point-focused since they are the result of a systemic approach to future-proof the grid,” Dr. Di Martino says. “In view of the increasing level of decentralisation of the energy system, it's even more important now to address the changes in supply and demand, as the grid has been moving away from polluting, yet readily dispatchable fossil-fuelled generation assets.”
Low-voltage network insights will be made available through the Amp X’s proprietary smart transformer – also known as the ‘Smart Tx’ – which will replace conventional transformers in the distribution network to resolve the challenges that network operators have been facing as a result of the increased penetration of Distributed Energy Resources (DERs).
“Historically, distribution network transformers have been passive assets that were not smart or digitalised. There were no electric vehicles, solar PV or other assets that impacted grid stability, and the technology didn’t exist to gather, analyse and make use of the data that could be gathered from different nodes across the grid,” Dr. Di Martino says.
Leveraging AI and ML
Amp X’s digital platform monitors the health and performance of different assets, and uses proprietary AI and ML algorithms to gain insights from this enhanced visibility of system activity, from grid-level infrastructure to behind-the-metre individual appliances and electric vehicle chargers.
Amp X relies on its robust predictive models to assess the impact of weather conditions on the production of solar and wind energy, providing insights into how the energy demand requirements in different periods of the day can be balanced with the output from renewable power generators, whilst also leveraging the optimised dispatch of battery storage assets.
“It is thanks to the insights gained from data through the use of appropriate and proprietary AI algorithms, that Amp X has developed a number of interoperable solutions which are not point-focused since they are the result of a systemic approach to future-proof the grid,” Dr. Di Martino says.
“In view of the increasing level of decentralisation of the energy system, it's even more important to address the changes in supply and demand, as we have moved away from what was the secure and readily dispatchable supply from centralised fossil-fuelled generation assets.”
Low-voltage network insights will be made possible thanks to the Amp X’s proprietary smart transformer ‒ also known as ‘Smart Tx’- which will replace conventional transformers within the distribution network to resolve the challenges that network operators have been facing as a result of the increased penetration of Distributed Energy Resources (DERs).
“Historically, distribution network transformers have been passive pieces of hardware that were not smart or digitalised. It wasn’t necessary, or even possible. There were no electric vehicles, solar PV or other assets that impacted grid stability, and the technology didn’t exist to gather, analyse and make use of the data that could be gathered from these nodes within the grid,” Dr. Di Martino says.
“Now we’re seeing more homes with solar panels and batteries, and in the future, single streets may have dozens of EVs recharging in the evenings or feeding power back into the grid. Having network insights is critical in order for Distribution System Operators to maintain secure and reliable supply, whilst avoiding unnecessary and costly network reinforcements.”
“Our smart transformer is going to help stabilise voltage dynamically – which is an increasingly significant challenge for network operators – as well as optimise power factor which will make the transport of electricity across the network more efficient and less costly. The Amp X Smart Tx is also able to act in conjunction with other Smart Tx units and other assets managed by the Amp X platform, in order to provide synthetic inertia into the system, hence helping it remain in balance,” explains Dr. Di Martino.
“The Amp X Smart Tx will be deployed on grid in the U.K. in a few weeks’ time and will be the first smart transformer for the low-voltage network.”
Leveraging the value of utility-scale electricity
Amp has several major upcoming projects in the works – Renewable Energy Hub of South Australia, community solar farms in the US, and a recently acquired wind portfolio in Spain. The Amp X digital energy platform enables the profitability of battery energy storage assets to be maximised.
“This is a core part of what we do, and that’s why we started optimising the dispatch of Amp assets in North America: identifying the most effective ways to dispatch that stored energy is the critical advantage provided by Amp X,” Dr. Di Martino explains. “Amp X's approach already supports the Amp ambitions of growth to an increasing portfolio of assets across different markets. Third parties too have recognised the strategic value of Amp X's approach and are adopting its solutions”
Switching to electric enables grid flexibility
“Amp X has a critical role to play in future-proofing the energy system. Our Virtual Power Plant solution has been in commercial operation now for several months in North America,” Dr. Di Martino says.
Dr. Di Martino also explains that Amp X is working with other companies across different strategic markets – such as U.K and Australia – to optimise battery operations, in front and behind the metre. This, she says, is a prime example of Amp X’s ability to respond to the rapid uptake of storage assets which are critical to meet the challenges associated with the increased presence of renewable generation across different markets. “Amp X continues to work in order to accelerate the electrification of heat and transport; such trends can triple the energy demand of a single household which puts a significant strain on the network.”
However, Dr. Di Martino points out that smart charging of EVs can be leveraged to provide an increased level of flexibility to the grid itself. Indeed, EV users can participate in Demand-Side Management (DSM) markets, by using Amp X’s digital energy platform which enables dynamic load-shaping of EVs and other appliances according to price signals and/or carbon intensity.
As Amp X continues to serve its parent company and customer base, it expects to see further growth by the end of 2022. Already mentioned is the game-changing role to be played by the Smart Tx, which will be rolled out in the coming months to address the challenges which network operators face in maintaining an efficient, secure and resilient network.
“Our Smart Tx is going to provide a set of key functionalities that are way beyond those currently available at substation level by incumbent technology. The deployment of our Smart Tx on the U.K. distribution network is definitely one of the things we look forward to the most in 2022. We will aid Amp’s ambitions by driving toward a fully transactive grid in which every point of consumption or generation helps to make the grid greener, more stable, flexible and secure, whilst making electricity more affordable for consumers. Amp X is an example of the bold approach that is required to overcome energy challenges and enable growth.”
Dr. Di Martino adds that “modernising and future-proofing the grid is what Amp X is all about”.
“That makes Amp perfectly placed to become a global renewable energy leader. We’re combining our highly disruptive digital platform with a fundamental understanding of the electricity system and the energy market so that our solutions are robust and innovative.”