Unleashing the power of AI for a smarter, greener grid

The energy landscape is undergoing a seismic shift. Navigating this huge transition can be made easier with appropriate applications of Artificial Intelligence (AI), writes the Electricity System Operator’s head of innovation strategy and digital transformation Carolina Tortora.

Unleashing the power of AI for a smarter, greener grid

Decarbonisation demands a complete reimagining of our systems, and the key to success lies in embracing a holistic approach driven by data and innovation. Here at the Electricity System Operator, we’re spearheading this revolution with our latest Innovation Strategy and a robust portfolio of innovation projects that are strongly focussedd on Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learnings (ML).

Building a future-proof grid demands a shift in perspective. Gone are the days of siloed information and reactive systems. We need a unified vision that analyses the entire energy ecosystem – generation, transmission, and distribution. This requires a central nervous system capable of processing vast amounts of data, and that’s precisely where AI steps in.

Our innovation portfolio – and priorities which are set out in our latest Innovation Strategy – reflects this commitment. Tools like the Dynamic Reserve Setting (DRS) model and the ambitious Advanced Dispatch Optimiser (ADO) programme leverage AI to empower our control room with unprecedented levels of insight.

DRS allows for dynamic reserve allocation based on real-time data, leading to a more efficient and cost-effective system. ADO, with its cutting-edge Adaptive Models, will go even further, transforming control room operations by providing enhanced forecasting, optimised dispatch, and improved grid management.

Data standardisation

However, AI is only as powerful as the data it is fed. High-quality, standardised data is the lifeblood of these solutions. We recognise this, and that’s why initiatives like the Powering Wales Renewably (PWR) project, which aims to provide a holistic view of Wales’ grid by creating a digital replica of Wales’ electricity transmission and distribution networks, are so crucial.

We are taking a holistic view to find synergies and dependencies across the whole of Wales’ energy system and ensure collaboration in finding the optimal routes toward net-zero. By creating a digital twin of the Welsh network and fostering data sharing throughout the industry, we will unlock AI’s full potential for system-wide optimisation. Imagine the possibilities when renewables seamlessly integrate with the grid, and decarbonisation becomes a reality, not just an aspiration.

Systems change

This isn’t just about us. We are committed to being a catalyst for industry-wide innovation. By collaborating with established players and welcoming new innovators, startups, and even entirely new industries into the fold, we can build a more robust and powerful AI ecosystem. Sharing data becomes a force multiplier, powering smarter tools and unlocking an era of unprecedented efficiency.

Great Britain’s goal – a zero-carbon grid by 2035 – is ambitious, but achievable with the right tools and vision. This journey requires a transformation of culture, policy, markets, and technology. We are on the front lines, leading the charge with innovative solutions and a collaborative spirit.

We’re more than just a system operator; we’re innovation champions, and we invite you to join us. This is a call to action for our existing partners, for disruptive innovators, and for those with fresh ideas and technologies. Together, let’s reshape the energy landscape and build a sustainable future.

Carolina Tortora is the head of innovation strategy and digital transformation at National Grid Electricity System Operator 

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