This SliceNet use case focuses on Smart Grid Self-Healing, proposed by EFACEC (EFA), a company of the EFACEC Power Solutions Group, the largest Portuguese group in the electromechanical area. The automation in distribution with self-healing solutions is surely a critical challenge to consider in this transformational evolution towards Smart/Smarter Grid. Self-healing will enable system operators to benefit from a significant reduction in the outage duration, number of affected customers as well as in the number of switching manoeuvres required during network reconfiguration procedure involved in Fault Detection Isolation and service Restoration (FDIR).
Smart Grid Self-Healing presents several technical challenges. Concerning the grid automatic reconfiguration based on advanced FDIR algorithms (one of the main features), this process is influenced by the switchgear technologies available and by the high availability and very low-latency communication capability of the ICT infrastructure. Concerning communication, the achievement of the desirable level of response for the implementation of distributed Self-Healing solutions based in peer-to-peer communications, with ultra-low-latency and high availability and reliability, involves nowadays’ high investment in dedicated communication networks, managed by the utility.
Alternatively, the use of public, namely 5G mobile networks to support those communications emerges as a new paradigm within the scope of utilities critical systems’ management, since it allows deployments almost anywhere in the grid, without changing the present communication framework. Meanwhile, the use of public networks to provide critical data communications raises some concerns, mainly related with cyber security and quality of service – namely signal coverage, availability and latency. In particular, latency is extremely important, once in power systems protection the management of switchgear devices imposes severe latency and time-delay requirements concerning communication, hardly satisfied by the present communication infrastructures. Moreover, for the use of public networks to support the communications in management of electrical energy critical infrastructures it is crucial to gain the confidence of the system operators, in exchanging their very specific critical data over a shared network, reinforcing the need for higher cyber-security and intrusion guaranties from network providers. All these challenges entail investments that must be cost effective which should take into account the global revenue achieved through system’s reliability improvement. Within the SliceNet project, the Altice Labs (ALB, formerly Portugal Telecom Innovation) and EFA will promote a partnership to deploy this 5G Smart Grid Self-Healing use case jointly in Portugal. ALB’s 5G SliceNet infrastructure will be integrated with the EFA’s Smart Grid hardware/software components for the demonstrator.