Grid infrastructure, in particular distribution infrastructure, has an essential role: bringing electricity to homes and businesses, managing energy flows in real time to ensure a constant balance between the energy fed onto the system by production plants and consumed by end users.
But the technological and cultural transformation that comes along with the process of decarbonization also has an impact on the grids.
Resilience, reliability and efficiency are some of the key features of grid infrastructure, which is now capable of exploiting the potential of big data and high tech systems to ensure the best possible use of energy and an ever-greater quality of service. This becomes even more pertinent when we consider that by 2050 around 70% of the global population will live in urban areas and the demand for energy is set to grow enormously.
The Group’s Infrastructure and Networks Division is constantly working on Grid Futurability®, i.e. the transformation of the distribution networks into smart grids that combine the use of conventional equipment with innovative solutions in all the countries where we are present – including Italy, where our 1.16 million-km extended network is becoming increasingly smart and resilient to support the spread of new digital services to benefit the communities we serve.
Infrastructure at the cutting edge
Thanks to smart meters and the use of innovative software, we can analyze the data collected in real time and exploit the information that is produced each day in order to make the grid even more efficient through a data-driven approach based on machine learning algorithms. Predictive maintenance allows us to intervene in advance, or to identify the cause of a drop in performance in real time. A digital grid is safer not only in terms of the quality of the service provided, it also makes it possible to reduce risks. Drones and robots, supported by artificial intelligence and virtual reality systems, can flag potential trouble spots and help technicians repair faults.
The digital transformation of the entire energy sector also ensures the right tools to take advantage of the Internet of Things and to create integrated platforms for decentralized or remote control. Through smart sensors and automated controls, moreover, the grid can be rapidly adapted to the needs of consumers, responding in real time to changes in energy needs.
Electrification and digitalization: opportunities for development
To achieve a zero-emissions grid model, we’re working on the process of electrification, increasing the efficiency of transporting energy and all related services. The transformation is also influenced by the considerable increase in the number of prosumers, whose role is gaining importance in the current energy scenario: in addition to consuming energy, prosumers produce clean energy both for self-consumption and to feed into the grid. This energy comes, for example, from domestic photovoltaic systems or mini wind power plants, leading to the need to create a bidirectional grid that works both ways, thus avoiding energy waste. In short, this is a real transformation in the way the consumer is perceived: no longer just a passive customer but also a producer of energy that, in turn, is transformed into a shared and co-produced resource. In 2021, our Group reached the milestone of one million prosumers connected to the grid, contributing an installed capacity of 57 GW
People are, and will remain, at the center of this transition, becoming increasingly aware and active participants in the energy ecosystem, with the goal of creating shared value for all: our ultimate objective is to create a society that is more equitable, more inclusive and that offers more new employment opportunities connected to the new role of the electricity grid.