How Itron Drives the Future of Smart Power Grids

Blog / 03/20/2023

Smart electrical meters, smart cars, smart cities — the smart power grid has never been in higher demand. The global adoption of electric vehicles (EVs) alone is expected to increase by 25% year over year until 2030.

But for EVs and other new technologies to truly become part of day-to-day life, they need the proper infrastructure. That means utilities and EV charging operators (or the companies that run EV charging stations) need to overcome the challenge of integrating the EV ecosystem into the current energy grid. This involves everything from identifying ideal charger locations to establishing remote visibility into electric meters.

Itron, an energy resource management company, teamed up with Nstream to develop a real-time, scalable streaming application to monitor all kinds of power sources, from residential meters to EV chargers and more. Itron recently completed a project to support a more resilient EV charging infrastructure, paving the road to making the future of EVs a reality.

The Challenge of Building Efficient EV Infrastructure

Itron enables utilities and cities to safely, securely, and reliably deliver critical infrastructure solutions to communities in more than 100 countries. In 2022, Itron decided to find a solution to one of the primary challenges of grid integration: the lack of real-time grid visibility — which, in turn, hinders efficient grid management, improvements, and planning.

While smart meters can record information about energy consumption, they do not provide real-time information on EV charger usage, and uncovering this information can be difficult. For example, a single transformer (which powers an EV charging station) can be associated with several meters, and many companies do not have easy access to information that tells them which transformer is associated with each meter and charger. Transformers may also update their metrics at different cadences, making it even more difficult to gather accurate, real-time insights.

The main challenge Itron sought to address was the real-time monitoring of the entire power grid. Itron could check the real-time power consumption from Smart Meters and EV Chargers but could not gather the load on transformers, feeders, and substations at any given moment. The company had to gather the store the data from the Smart Meters and EV Chargers in a database and perform expensive database queries to compute usage at the transformer/feeder/substation level — which meant they could only perform this analysis after a significant time gap.

Itron needed a scalable application that allowed it to accelerate EV charging deployments and monitor millions of endpoints.

The Curious Case of Cross-Company Collaboration

When it comes to creating real-time streaming applications, Nstream doesn’t want to replace every tool you already have — we can work within your existing ecosystem.

Itron used the Nstream Platform to create a graph of interconnected Web Agents (stateful entities) to model every element in their power grid network: including all smart meters, EV chargers, transformers, feeders, and substations. Nstream gave Itron the ability to establish relationships between individual power grid elements by using the capability of Web-Agent-supported “links.”

With this setup, as data for a smart meter or EV charger came in, it flowed up the graph to the transformer Web Agent, which then computed its current usage. This meant a transformer represented a complete view of all the meters and EV chargers associated with it.

Itron also built a web application using Nstream’s real-time geo-map layer, which allowed Itron to include an easily-accessible live view of the power grid on a map.

How Itron is Driving the Future of EVs

While the initial motivation of Itron was to monitor their power grid network, the company quickly realized that they could make their EV Charger occupancy data available to customers as well.

With a real-time view of grid infrastructure, Itron utility customers can identify where chargers aren’t in use and, therefore, better control electricity use at charging stations by conserving energy instead of running chargers non-stop.

As a result, Itron’s Charging Optimizer solution can save end customers more than 35% on their energy costs through managed charging and can save utilities more than 20% annualized, considering grid infrastructure investments and ongoing management.

Creating its own real-time streaming application has opened the door for Itron to explore other verticals as well. The company now knows how to track meters, substations, and additional transformers, along with how to translate traffic into other use cases.

Read more about how Nstream is helping other transportation and supply chain realize greater transparency and resiliency.

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