Electrical Business


Canadian-led consortium to develop tomorrow’s electricity distribution

May 28, 2019 | By Peter Saunders

Image courtesy NRCan

May 28, 2019 – A consortium of Canadian energy companies has been shortlisted to develop the ‘electricity distribution system of the future,’ as part of Natural Resources Canada’s (NRCan’s) Power Forward Challenge.

The challenge will see professionals in Canada and the U.K. collaborate on new ‘smart grid’ technologies. Leveraging existing investments in metering and control centres, they will seek to bridge gaps between grid operations, engineering, planning and in-field asset management, as well as support the integration of smaller renewable energy generators and users.

Members of the partnership include Utilismart, Essex Powerlines, Oakville Hydro Electricity Distribution and Planview Utility Services from Canada, along with First Derivatives and Digital Engineering from the U.K., among others.

“In an age of digital transformation and changing needs, this project will develop technologies to enable utilities to serve customers of all sizes with unprecedented efficiency,” says Scott Mudie, chief operating officer (COO) of Oakville Hydro. “To remain essential, utilities across the world need to transform from traditional poles-and-wires companies into distribution system operators, by turning data into decisions.”


By combining their data analysis efforts, the reasoning goes, utilities will better understand their operational performance of their transformers, breakers and switches, so they can avoid traditional fixed-interval maintenance programs and improve operational dispatch and control.

“The transformative utility delivers on the promise of clean electricity generation and use by developing an integrated, responsive, efficient end-to-end digital distribution system,” says John Avdoulos, president of Utilismart in London, Ont. “Adopting this technology will provide transparency and value to regulators, market operators, distribution system operators and customers throughout Canada.”

NRCan will formally announce the Power Forward Challenge semi-finalists next week in Vancouver. They will compete in a pitch event and the winning proposal will be announced before the end of June.

The winners will then compete for one of three $3-million grants, to be used to conduct a pilot-scale demonstration of their smart grid solutions. In March 2021, the final winner of an additional $1-million prize will be announced.

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