Quality and security of electricity supply are basic needs for human and economic development. Today, distribution utilities face an overall challenge of improving the electricity network while retaining these basic needs. The increase in distributed and intermittent production of electrical energy on aging distribution networks requires a rigorous demand management strategy to ensure the continuity and quality of energy supplies.

The energy sector is reported to be the largest contributor to climate change, as it produces nearly 60% of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and was responsible for the largest growth in global GHG emissions from 1970 to 2004. In response to the increasing GHG emissions, governments and stakeholders have been implementing environmental policy toward a more sustainable use of energy. To achieve this goal, electricity distribution operators must achieve the right balance between energy efficiency and the growth of distributed generation supported by renewable energy sources.

For the past 11 years, the European Commission has made legislative proposals to create a liberalized European market. The energy industry has had to adapt. Because of the liberalization, the industry now has to deal with rules from regulators that include increased market competition, the introduction of new services and energy production costs. There were three drivers of the change: security and quality of supply; environment sustainability; and consumer empowerment.

InovGrid is the Portugal-based EDP Distribuição's energy management solution — developed in partnership with several technological and scientific partners — designed to address the electricity industry's challenges from the integration of new forms of energy generation, new reliability requirements for supply and increased market competition.

InovGrid Project

InovGrid is an ambitious smart grid project. Technically, it's the integration of the communications network with the power networks to create a power-communications super infrastructure that will give the electricity network the capacity to integrate the actions of all stakeholders (producers and consumers), thereby satisfying the energy supply, efficiently, sustainably, economically and safely.

The available features will allow a more efficient network management control system together with the development of new services for consumers and producers. In fact, consumers are the main beneficiary of this innovative project, as they will play an active role in managing their own usage to reduce overall energy consumption; and they will benefit from new services, new forms of pricing and more price plans.

EDP's InovGrid solution consists of three lines of action to accelerate the transformation of the electricity network:

  • Remote energy management — A customer-centric approach, promoting energy efficiency and providing new services, with tools and functionalities for individualized telemanagement for network users and agents of liberalized markets.

  • Integration of distributed generation with the distribution network — Adequacy of the network for a generalized integration of distributed micro production of energy while maintaining the quality of and reliability of supply

  • Proof of concept for the smart grid — Integration of more intelligence to increase the efficiency, safety and quality of service in the operation of networks.

Technical Reference Architecture

There are four main components of the InovGrid solution:

  • Energy box (EB) — A device installed in the customer's home that includes a measurement module, control module and communications module

  • Distribution transformer controller (DTC) — Local control equipment installed in distribution transformer stations (the main components of the DTC are a measurement module, control module and communications module)

  • Networks/communications — Equipment and technology for information transmission

  • Information systems — Systems and applications for the management and central processing of data.

The technical architecture reference solution includes the main components and the interconnections between them.

The paradigm shift that is underway in the electric power system requires a constant ability to restructure the model architecture of several components. To address this issue, the components of EDP's InovGrid smart grid project have been designed and built to support upgrades, by the addition of modules or hardware updates.

The functions of the main components are as follows:

  • The EB is a gateway to energy management, which includes the functions of smart metering and has the capacity for local interaction with other devices through an interface home area network. The EB meets the needs of micro production, with functions such as two-way metering, load management and peak load reduction, because EDP will be able to integrate it with other modules and upgrade its hardware, thus avoiding costs associated with full replacement of equipment.

  • The DTC is the nerve center for intelligent control of the network. Its architecture consists of one or more provisions contained in a box and some hardware modules such as a central processing unit, communications, human-machine interface, and analog and digital acquisition. The DTC will be installed in the distribution transformer station and will include a set of functionalities such as telemetry, automation, measurement of quality of energy, and communications systems upstream and downstream. In addition to its local functions for the distribution transformer, the DTC summates the information from the EBs installed in customer homes, sending the information to the upstream systems. The DTC also will allow interaction between the upstream system and the EBs, especially for remote updates of hardware.

  • The communications network for the InovGrid project is divided into three areas:

    • Home Area Network — This network enables the interconnection of the EB with a small amount of equipment located inside the customer's home, which enables interaction with other meters (for example, microgeneration, gas and water) and with local displays, sensors and actuators (for example, enabling the selective reduction in cutting charges).

    • Local Area Network — Communications are mainly supported on the distribution network (power line communications) with the possibility for general packet radio service (GPRS) connecting the DTC located in distribution substations with the EB installed in each customer's premise. This network will allow primarily the parameterization of the counters, reprogramming of their hardware, changes to the contracted power, reducing load (total or selective) and sending data.

    • Wide Area Network — This network connects the DTC to information systems (technical management, energy management and counting) and is based on GPRS communications.

Information Telecommunications Integration

The integrated information system InovGrid (SI) is based on a unified architecture and modular components being interconnected through an integration platform, responsible for application integration with external and internal applications and for future development. This architecture is based on the service-oriented architecture (SOA) model, meaning the subscription for services provided by various applications will allow obtaining and providing information to take necessary action.

The InovGrid project applies a center-level management of the large volume of information that will be available from the InovGrid infrastructure. Simultaneously, this ensures the corresponding interaction with existing systems of the players in the distribution network. This approach allows the optimal exploitation of each system's potential and takes advantage of synergies between them, enhancing cost reductions in system integration.

The SI design was made modular and expandable to include new features in each component (the EB and DTC) and other related new services derived from energy data management (EDM), without affecting features already covered. Each module includes InovGrid features.

This new platform combines the functionality of commercial management and technical management by implementing accurate billing procedures, using consumption and production data obtained in near-real time. The new central system provides an overview of all existing devices, allowing the operation of a truly active network. The bridge for the supervisory control and data acquisition components, EDM applications and other business systems is carried out at all levels, from the central system to lower levels, allowing for optimum management of the electricity network while improving the quality of power supply and introducing new features.

EDP foresees a balanced allocation of benefits from the project among all stakeholders. One of the most promising benefits may be the increase in energy efficiency. This can be achieved by encouraging the application of sustainable practices in energy consumption. Naturally, when a consumer becomes a producer through microgeneration systems, they become more demanding for information, but the smart grid is not only the response to that demand but also the trigger to that conversion.

EDP's Application of the InovGrid Project

EDP has begun the installation of EBs in customers' homes. At present, EDP has installed 50,000 units, and customer reaction has been positive demonstrating the expectation around the technology. Some customers are interested in the functions and capacity of the EB, while others have shown more interest in viewing their consumption on EDP's dedicated web portal. When the project is completely installed in Portugal, more than 6 million customers will benefit from this smart grid technology.

The implementation timetable of the InovGrid project depends on the results of the preinstallation pilot project. EDP will use the results from a survey involving 50,000 customers before establishing the rollout timetable. To support the decision, EDP is developing a cost-benefit analysis that shows significant customer improvements in terms of efficient energy consumption and the integration of microgeneration.

To implement its vision, the EDP has established partnerships with several technological and scientific organizations:

  • INESC Porto — A knowledge center in the electricity industry, INESC Porto has a history of collaboration with industry in microgeneration, management and optimum utilization of electricity networks.

  • Efacec — A worldwide energy technological company, Efacec operates in the areas of automation and network management for energy.

  • JANZ & Contar — A Portugal-based meter manufacturer with extensive experience in the design and manufacture of equipment and systems for metering and energy management.

  • Logica — This technology-based company has expertise and experience in the design, development, implementation and operational management of information systems.

20-20-20 Objectives

The InovGrid project is in line with the European Commission's 20-20-20 objectives: a 20% reduction in emissions, 20% renewable energies and 20% improvement in energy efficiency by 2020. The support given by the smart grid is critical to achieving positive results for these ambitious objectives.

Other developments, like electric vehicle and micro-generation integration, depend largely on the rollout of smart grid projects, like InovGrid, based on a SOA model. A model of SOA will allow a better and sustainable monitoring of the market needs and create one adaptable infrastructure that attends to all consumer and network needs, without compromising service levels.


António Aires Messias (aires.messias@edp.pt) is on the board of InovGrid ACE. He has a degree in electrical engineering (energy and power systems) from the Instituto Superior Tecnico and an MBA degree from the Universidade Católica Business School. He has extensive experience in electrical energy systems and was previously a lecturer at the Instituto Superior Tecnico.

Vera Nunes joined EDP Distribuição in 2011, working in communication and promotion for the smart grid project InovGrid. Previously, she held positions in local government, and in commercial and investment banking.

David Estévão (davidjose.estevao@edp.pt) works in system information department of EDP Energias de Portugal and is responsible for the definition of functional and technical requirements for the AMI system of the InovGrid project, and doing impact assessment for changes in processes and features coupled with the introduction of intelligent networks on the architecture of information systems. Estévão has a degree in electrical and computer engineering from the Instituto Superior Tecnico.

Companies mentioned:

EDP | www.edp.pt

Efacec | www.efacecusa.com

INESC Porto | www.inescporto.pt

JANZ & Contar | www.janzce.pt

Logica | www.logica.com