PGE pilots Utilidata smart-grid chip

  • March 28, 2023
  • Steve Rogerson

Portland General Electric (PGE) is to pilot Utilidata’s smart-grid chip, a distributed artificial intelligence (AI) platform, in Oregon.

Rhode Island-based Utilidata’s smart-grid chip, powered by the Nvidia Jetson processor, is a distributed AI platform installed alongside electric meters that integrates distributed energy resources (DERs) including solar, battery storage and electric vehicles (EVs), and enhances resiliency of the electric grid.

Leveraging Nvidia accelerated computing and AI technology, the smart-grid chip collects and analyses large amounts of granular data at the edge of the grid in real time.

With this open, software-defined platform, electric utilities expect seamlessly to add more clean energy, reduce power outages, enable quicker storm recovery and ultimately lower the cost of grid operations. The smart-grid chip’s open software design also allows PGE and its partners to develop custom applications.

Smart-grid chips are anticipated to be installed within PGE’s Smart Grid Test Bed, which incentivises customers to use smart-home technologies. This first phase of the deployment will provide initial real-time visibility at the edge of the grid and support PGE’s decarbonisation transition. This positions PGE to scale distributed intelligence across a modern grid.

“In Oregon, we are experiencing the impacts of climate change first-hand and recognise the urgent need for innovation at the grid edge as we transition to a clean energy future,” said Ananth Sundaram, senior manager at Portland General Electric. “Investing in new technologies for the grid is a key strategy for PGE to achieve its climate goals and provide customers with clean, affordable and resilient energy.”

PGE serves over 900,000 customers and has ambitious greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction targets, including an 80 per cent reduction in baseline GHG emissions from power served to retail customers. To meet these targets, PGE aims to source a quarter of its peak load, which is when energy demand and costs are highest, from clean energy resources at the edge of the grid such as residential rooftop solar and batteries. The smart-grid chip will enable PGE to better leverage these DERs to meet its goals.

“Modernising grid infrastructure in time to meet essential decarbonisation goals requires transformational leadership,” said Jess Melanson, Utilidata president. “Utilidata is proud to work with Portland General Electric, an innovative partner who understands the value of making investments to not only solve today’s challenges, but to prepare for the dramatic changes the grid will face in the coming years. We are inspired by PGE’s commitment to innovation and look forward to working together to transform grid operations and better serve PGE customers.”

Marc Spieler, head of energy business development at Nvidia, added: “No industry stands to gain as much from the forces of AI and machine learning as in energy. With AI, we now have the technology to deploy an intelligent energy grid that is more reliable, secure and efficient. And, in collaboration with Utilidata and PGE, Nvidia is working to create an intelligent energy infrastructure for a sustainable future, expanding our work in Oregon.”

PGE’s Smart Grid Test Bed is a community-driven approach to managing energy use and demand to accelerate the clean energy transition. The test bed spans three neighbourhoods with more than 20,000 participating customers who are incentivised to use smart-home technologies, such as thermostats, water heaters, EV chargers and batteries, to gain better control over their energy use and carbon footprint while helping PGE operate the grid more efficiently.