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Quantum Computing for the Future Grid

July 19, 2021
We need a robust computational foundation that can convert all this collected big data into actionable information.

The electric power grid is undergoing unprecedented change. This change is due to decarbonization efforts, increased reliance on renewable and variable generation resources, the integration of distributed energy resources, and transportation electrification. In turn, these changes have required electric utilities to expand their monitoring and measurement efforts through metering infrastructure and distribution automation initiatives. All these efforts have resulted in the collection of mountains of data from the electric grid. While this significant increase in data collection enables better monitoring of the grid and enhanced decision making, we still need a robust computational foundation that can convert all this collected big data into actionable information.

Quantum Computing Applications in Power Grids

As mathematical challenges increase and data becomes core to modern utility decision-making, our industry needs to make progress and draw from emerging analytics and computing technologies. Quantum computing is a ground-breaking information processing technology that can support efforts to address power system challenges and enable the grid of the future. Given the promising applications to the power grid, this is an area of research that has really caught my attention lately. While quantum computing applications to the power grid have remained mostly unexamined, forward-looking utilities are exploring the next step to enhance these analytics by understanding how emerging quantum computing technologies can be leveraged to provide higher service levels.

Building the future grid will require an overall view of the quantum computing technology applications in power systems, such as the dynamic interaction of the transmission and distribution systems. According to a recent IEEE article by Rozhin Eskandarpour and a team of researchers from the University of Denver Electrical and Computing Engineering Department, current computational technologies might not be able to adequately address the needs of the future grid.

“The most notable change is observed in the role of the distribution grid and customers in system design and management. Transmission and distribution systems were frequently operated as distinct systems but are becoming more of an integrated system. The underlying hypothesis was that at the substation, the transmission system would supply a prescribed voltage, and the distribution system will supply the energy to individual customers. However, as various types of distributed energy resources, including generation, storage, electric vehicles, and demand response, are integrated into the distribution network, there may be distinct interactions between the transmission and distribution systems. Distributed generation’s transient and small-signal stability problems are one instance that changes the energy system’s dynamic nature. Therefore, developing more comprehensive models that include the dynamic relationships between transmission and distribution systems, and relevant computational tools that can solve such models will be essential in the future. Furthermore, better scheduling models are needed to design viable deployment and use of distributed energy resources.”

Eskandarpour et al. describe other potential quantum computing applications for the power grid, including optimization, planning, and logistics; forecasting; weather prediction; wind turbine design; cybersecurity; grid security; and grid stability.

University-Industry Consortium

Given that I am both professionally embedded in covering the newest innovations within the power sector and nearing the end of a Ph.D. program at the University of Denver, it is not particularly surprising that a new university-industry research consortium has caught my attention. I am excited to share about this ground-breaking initiative and its potential role in building the future grid.

The University of Denver, in collaboration with various utilities, has established a consortium related to envisioning the quantum upgraded electric system of tomorrow. “QUEST” is the clever acronym that has been adopted for this university-industry consortium. The consortium aims to enhance university-industry collaborations to solve emerging challenges in building the future grid by utilizing quantum information and quantum computation. The consortium will develop new quantum models, methodologies, and algorithms to solve a range of grid problems faster and more accurately. Topics of interest include:

  • Increased levels of customer participation
  • Opportunities in distributed energy resource integration and utilization
  • Power quality and reliability improvement
  • Asset management and system efficiency
  • Demand-side management
  • Electric vehicle studies
  • Smart distribution
  • Cybersecurity

Industry members financially support the QUEST consortium, and membership is voluntary and open to any public or private organization active in the power and energy industry. For more information, contact Dr. Amin Khodaei at the University of Denver, School of Engineering and Computer Science.

About the Author

Martha Davis | Senior Director of Content

Prior to working at T&D World and Utility Analytics Institute, Martha worked as an executive in the energy industry for about 15 years. She has held various regulatory and government affairs positions and had the opportunity to shape public policy.

Martha has a B.A. from Westminster College in Fulton, MO; completed specialized legal and public policy coursework at American University in Washington, D.C.; M.P.A. Public Affairs and M.B.A. Business Administration both from the University of Missouri. She is currently a doctoral candidate at the University of Denver where she is researching business analytics, innovation and regulation.

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