Interview with Wajid Muneer, Opus One Solutions

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Opus One Solutions focuses on creating an intelligent, connected and sustainable energy network. Since its founding in 2011, Opus One Solutions has helped utility partners gain visibility into electricity distribution systems, and better manage distributed energy sources.

This interview turned out pretty nice. We are excited to share Wajid’s thoughts about the business and the future of the industry. Enjoy!

Wajid Muneer, vice president of Product Management

What is Distributed Energy Resource (DER) management and its benefits to the consumer? How are the consumers engaged in it?

Distributed energy resource (DER) management refers to the process of controlling and dispatching DERs in real-time, to cost-effectively meet grid needs. Since these resources are located within the distribution system, oftentimes in consumers’ homes or on the properties of local businesses, DER management can actually benefit consumers by giving them an active role in the electricity system. These sources of power are cleaner than other alternatives and help defer costly system upgrades to the distribution system or construction of new centralized generating facilities. This means consumers benefit from being served with cleaner power that also helps lower their total electricity bill. But DER management can also be paired with market programs that incentivize DER dispatch, meaning consumers can receive credit or compensation for offering their resources to the grid.

How are the objectives of DER efforts being established? How are the targets being set and monitored over time?

The utility industry is one that is heavily regulated, so many of the objectives will be based on policy or regulatory direction set by states, provinces, or countries. For example, clean energy and CO₂ targets have led to utilities installing more clean energy on the grids and piloting various programs to see how DERs can be used more broadly in power systems. The results of those pilots are continuously being monitored, and learnings are often shared across jurisdictions to help the industry find appropriate business and program models to make DERs work for their systems.

In terms of costs, the security of supply, and CO₂ reduction, what can optimal DER solutions bring to the table?

As DER and software technology mature and their adoption increases, costs go down, making them much more feasible investments for utilities. The key to the optimization of DER solutions is software controls. These controls allow utilities to use these resources when it can provide the most benefit to their grid and customers.

How does the GridOS software solution work? What is the 3-phase AC unbalanced decision-making process for DERs?

GridOS is an advanced analytics platform used for planning, operating, and transacting energy on the grid. It helps utilities optimize their distribution systems by creating a “digital twin” of the electricity distribution network. By modeling the grid in its as-operated state (with the 3-phase AC unbalanced power flow), utilities can analyze and optimize complex two-way power flows to develop robust and cost-effective distribution system plans, deliver real-time energy management, and operate transactive energy markets. That power flow allows you to truly see what’s happening on the grid to remove the guesswork and make more precise decisions.

Who do you see as your strongest competitor? What is your strategy to keep your competitive advantage?

Many in our industry will be familiar with Cyme and Synergi for distribution system planning. There are also various DER management software companies like Autogrid and Siemens, among others. GridOS is unique in that it offers solutions right from planning to real-time operations and market management, and it’s a flexible platform so that utilities can choose only what they need or want. To elaborate on this point, our software leverages the Common Information Model for its data schema. This basically means we are built on open standards so utilities can seamlessly integrate GridOS into their existing solutions. We’re not trying to vendor-lock them. It’s also scalable and modular as we use a microservices-based architecture that allows utilities to pick and choose the applications that they need and the extent of deployment.

How significant role do AI and machine learning play in Opus One Solutions?

AI and machine learning are still at the infancy stage in this industry. At Opus One Solutions, we believe that better algorithms can be built with a combination of AI tools and data analytics that correlate real data and learning, like understanding how voltage in one place affects the voltage elsewhere in the system, and then optimizing grid operations through automation based on the analysis.

Does Opus One Solutions use any blockchain applications at the moment? In the future?

While our technology does not use blockchain applications at this time, it can be integrated with other systems to support each utility’s specific objectives. For example, we’re working with Ameren Corporation to test a transactive energy marketplace (TEM) with our platform and evaluate the use of Blockchain ledger systems to support that marketplace.

Who do you target as your customers in the first place?

We target distribution utilities.

The key to the optimization of DER solutions is software controls. These controls allow utilities to use these resources when it can provide the most benefit to their grid and customers.

Wajid Muneer, Opus One Solutions

How far would you say the DER optimization has come as of today, and what do you see as the biggest challenges in this field?

The one-way electricity delivery model has proven to be inadequate to support the diverse energy options that consumers are adopting now. We’ve seen the development of solutions and systems like SCADA and traditional Distribution Management Systems over the years to provide utility operators visibility and control over the assets on their system, including utility-owned DERs. However, customer-connected DERs outside a utility’s direct control present an increasing operational challenge. Traditional tools were not designed to consider granular customer DER into account. Furthermore, the traditional tools require significant investment and take years to deploy. Utilities need a cost-effective and integrated approach to address DER planning that also includes future customer demand and impact on grid operations.

Where do you see the development of grid operating platform technology going over the next five years?

With advancements in new technology stacks and standardization of codes and protocols, grid operating platforms may leverage more advanced analytics for better decision-making to consider the impact of all the DERs (using optimal power flow, machine learning, AI, etc.). We see these systems becoming easier and faster to deploy (using containerization such as Docker, Kubernetes, and others), with the ability to integrate with other systems through open standards. We also see them becoming more accessible and collaborative on the web.

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