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DistribuTECH 2024 Takeaways

As the drive towards net zero accelerates, the power industry is charging ahead, ready to collaborate on finding solutions to the energy transition's most vexing problems.

That was readily apparent during my time at DistribuTECH, the leading technology trade show in the Americas for the electricity transmission and distribution industry. There is a feeling of urgency, a sense of purpose, and an undercurrent of excitement that is driven by the advent of new technology and a willingness to invest in building the modern grid.

Right now, we see three main challenges:

  • Aging grid infrastructure;
  • Integrating renewables and leveraging the distributed energy resources at the grid edge; and
  • Generating enough capacity to meet increasing electrification.

While these three factors have created tension and bottlenecks in the networks, they are also spurring new technologies that will ultimately result in a more stable and resilient grid.

Much of the excitement at DistribuTECH centered on the new software and automation technologies. GE Vernova introduced GridBeats, a suite of five innovative software-defined automation solutions that digitalize grid operations and enhance grid resilience.

Utilities with older grid infrastructure often operate without complete visibility into the network and inadequate control measures to prevent problems that can destabilize the grid. Sensors coupled with digital solutions that use artificial intelligence and machine learning now enable utilities to see everything from the big picture down to the smallest piece of equipment. For example, GridBeats Zonal Autonomous Control allows utilities to divide their grid networks into autonomous zones, allowing the utility to isolate a zone when a problem occurs and bring another zone online to compensate.

Overlaying these advanced digital technologies on existing grid infrastructures creates a smarter, more efficient network that can cope with greater loads and allow more dynamic management of the grid.

Digitalization from the point of generation to the point of distribution also requires a comprehensive approach to cyber security. Last month, the U.S. Department of Energy in partnership with industry and government experts released cybersecurity baselines for electric distribution systems and DERs. Our industry understands that utilities are critical infrastructure and security is paramount.

That’s why we announced GE Vernova’s partnership with cybersecurity powerhouse Dragos at DistribuTECH. An end-to-end software solution must have an end-to-end cybersecurity package grounded in the most robust artificial intelligence and machine learning options available.

There is no question that the next few years will require unprecedented investment to tackle all that needs to be done to meet electricity demand as we decarbonize. Technology is moving quickly, which will require all of us to be creative and nimble. The excitement I saw at DistribuTECH indicates to me that the industry is ready to take the necessary risks that will accelerate the energy transition.

About the Author

Nicolas Gibergues is a Senior Executive and P&L Leader leading the Grid Automation business line within Grid Solutions at GE Vernova, where he is responsible for shaping and executing the business strategy for the Grid Automation portfolio through the development, delivery, and servicing of advanced technologies. He started his career in the aerospace industry as an air traffic control field engineer in Cairo, Egypt. Nicolas then moved to Alcatel in 2001 holding various positions in Thailand, Malaysia, and France, before joining Areva in 2009 as a regional leader for the Asia Pacific Automation business, based in Singapore. From 2013, Nicolas took the responsibility for Grid Automation’s global operations, driving operational excellence and overall business performance, and leading transformation actions in Europe and the Middle East. Nicolas has led the substation protection portfolio from 2017, driving the development of new technology, products, commercial strategy, and business models. Nicolas moved to his new role of Grid Automation P&L Leader in July 2019. Nicolas holds a Master of Engineering degree in Electronics and Digital Communications from Ecole Supérieure d’Electricité (Supélec) in France.

Profile Photo of Nicolas Gibergues