Building the power grid of tomorrow

Balancing growing demand with changing generation models

Commissioned The energy sector is undergoing a monumental shift as the power grid struggles to accommodate growing demand and the complexity of modern energy systems.

A major driver of this change is the increasing use of distributed renewable energy sources such as wind, solar and geothermal. These have very different location considerations compared to traditional forms of electricity generation and require the construction of thousands of miles of new transmission lines to connect solar and wind farms with power consumers. More importantly, their power output varies significantly throughout the year. This makes forecasting and managing generation a much more complex and data-intensive process.

Patterns of consumption are further complicated due to rooftop solar, microgrids and other local systems that change traditional models of consumption and generation. While these developments are critical for transitioning toward a more sustainable energy future, they result in a much more complex power grid for which traditional control models and Demand Response Management (DRM) tools are inadequate.

At the same time, demand growth has "shot up" from 2.6 percent in 2022 to 4.7 percent in 2023 according to recent reports in the Financial Times, meaning electricity demand is expected to more than double by 2040, with electric vehicles and power-hungry devices adding a significant load to the grid. That doubling in volume will require a doubling of infrastructure and resources to deliver the electricity.

Electrical utilities are challenged to meet this surging demand for power while navigating rapid changes in the way electricity is produced and consumed. Combined with new and emerging regulations, cyberthreats and constant vigilance against natural disasters, these challenges are changing an already complex system into one that cannot scale effectively under current control and DRM architectures.

To meet these challenges, utilities are modernizing to transform the grid from passive to active, and from unidirectional to bidirectional. This transformation is changing the fundamental operation from a rigid operational technology (OT)-centric, one-way energy flow model to a more dynamic, two-way, data-driven model that supports intermittent renewable resources, battery storage and demand response programs. Grid modernization will involve digital solutions that could lead to potential cybersecurity issues that need to be addressed too. By harnessing the power of cutting-edge technologies and strategic planning, electric utilities are paving the way for a future where reliable, affordable, clean and cost-effective energy can be a reality.

Adopting new toolsets and strategies

As utilities navigate the transition to new ways of generating and consuming power, system administration needs to evolve along with it. Tools for more intelligent, modernized systems are available to help navigate this transition, such as grid-scale energy storage to help smooth out demand/generation shifts and software-driven automation that can balance dynamic producers and consumers while maintaining grid resiliency and stability. However, in many cases these haven't been deployed yet because of regulatory burdens, lack of institutional knowledge and the big up-front cost of the transition.

The evolution of automation and control systems focuses on the hundreds of thousands of electrical substations that interconnect and protect the electrical grid. As a member of the vPAC (virtual protection, automation, and control) alliance, Dell Technologies is working with partners such as ABB, Schneider Electric, GE Vernova, VMware®, Phoenix Contact, Moxa, Microsystem and Mienberg to create virtualized digital solutions for the grid. This virtualization approach creates open systems where multiple ISVs can participate and create innovative solutions.

The solutions are designed to improve resiliency and flexibility while reducing complexity and cost for greenfield or for modernization of brownfield substations. By standardizing on a common hardware platform and introducing virtualization at the edge, the vPAC solution can consolidate substation infrastructure to reduce appliance sprawl, while also reducing ongoing operations and maintenance costs.

However, to transform the grid in ways that enable it to keep up with future energy demands also requires taking a long view toward incorporating cutting-edge technologies that takes DRM to the next level.

AI for DRM

The age of artificial intelligence (AI) is here, and AI has the ability to transform grid management for the future. Trained AI models can be set to collect and analyze data from across the grid — from power stations to pipelines to weather forecasting systems — to vastly improve DRM results over traditional automation systems. The benefits of this approach include:

More accurate demand forecasting: The ability to analyze vast amounts of historical data, weather patterns and other relevant factors helps AI forecast energy demand with greater speed and accuracy than traditional automation.

Real-time response: AI systems can evaluate multiple factors simultaneously and make dynamic adjustments to optimize demand response in real time.

Flexibility and scalability: AI can handle a wide range of demand response strategies, from load shifting to dynamic pricing, and can scale nearly without limits to accommodate changes in grid size and complexity.

Self-learning: AI models improve over time by analyzing feedback and performance data to refine their decisions and achieve better outcomes.

The future of energy requires a trusted partner

Electric grid modernization is not a one-time project but a continuous process that requires strategic planning and relentless innovation. By embracing this process, utilities can be ready to meet the evolving demands of customers, governments and society.

Modernizing infrastructure improves flexibility, reliability, efficiency, sustainability and cybersecurity. It enables large-scale adoption and integration of renewable distributed energy resources for improved efficiency, management and resiliency.

As we replace analog components with digital, the substations of today will transform into mini data centers capable of managing electricity supply and demand for future needs. Dell Technologies and our partners at vPAC will be an important part of that future. Currently, the Dell NativeEdge operations software platform is already capable of streamlining edge operations at scale through centralized management, secure device onboarding, zero-touch deployment and automated management of infrastructure and applications. As such, it lays the foundation for efficient and consistent utility operations from the edge to multicloud environments.

By modernizing to harness the power of cutting-edge technologies and strategies, electric utilities can pave the way to reliable, affordable, clean and cost-effective energy. Dell Technologies is working alongside electric utilities to help empower the future, secure our energy infrastructure and build a brighter and more sustainable world for generations to come.

Learn more about energy solutions by viewing the Edge Resource Library as well as this recent energy webinar.

Brought to you by Dell Technologies.

More about

More about

More about


Send us news