AES, one of the world’s leading power companies, is working with Google X, a subsidiary of Alphabet Inc., to develop a virtual grid of AES’ power distribution system that will model how to improve reliability when the system is using more clean energy resources.
The move is a significant step in the power sector towards planning how to operate in a low-carbon, clean energy future. Many utilities have committed to net zero goals or long-term GHG emissions reductions targets, as well as large investments in renewables. Today, however, there is no single virtualized view of the grid, making it difficult for utilities like AES to plan, build and optimize their operations and the grid for greater use of renewables. At the same time, grid operators currently have to decide how to distribute power without knowing exactly how much renewable energy resources are flowing into the grid and from which sources such as utilities, homes or commercial buildings.
Working with Google’s virtualization technologies, the two companies aim to simulate AES’ distribution grids in Indiana and Ohio in order to improve future grid operations and planning.
“One of the biggest obstacles to shifting to a renewable and reliable electric system is having a complete real-time picture of what is happening on the electric grid,” Audrey Zibelman, vice president and general manager for X’s electric grid team, said in a statement. “We are developing new computational and virtualization tools designed to give everyone who manages and operates the grid the ability to plan, build, and manage a clean and resilient grid.” Zibelman, an industry veteran, previously served as chief executive of the Australian Energy Market Operator and chair of the New York Public Service Commission.
AES and Google began a 10-year strategic alliance in 2019 aimed at advancing renewables capabilities with tools such as artificial intelligence and data analytics to modernize the electric grid and support new renewables projects in the U.S. and Latin America.