Growing concerns about climate change, fiscal incentives for sustainability and impending energy shocks are all boosting efforts to decarbonise the grid and increase energy efficiency. One result is more support for: Linux Foundation Energy (LF Energy), an open-source foundation focused on harnessing the power of collaborative software and hardware technologies to decarbonize global economies.
Today, virtually all devices that manage, control, or orchestrate energy systems are built on proprietary systems. The group recently announced several new efforts to usher in a new era of sustainability innovation:
- The Carbon data specification (CDS) for accurate, detailed carbon statistics will help companies link carbon emissions to business planning.
- Everest develops pen-source automotive and battery standards that simplify chargers and create a market for new apps to store and deliver power to reduce blackouts and pay for gear.
- GridLab-D will trade energy digital twins to help energy companies optimize their operations.
- Super Advanced Meter will transform the simple power meter into an intelligent energy management monitoring system to respond to energy price signals, detect faulty appliances and help households and businesses plan energy efficiency.
New sustainability apps, cloud services and energy management could work for equipment from different vendors and regions. This will provide incredible opportunities for innovations by both startups and established companies. OneLF Energy Member, Watts Carbon, is currently developing measuring instruments for decarbonisation. Another, Usage data is also digitizing the grid edge to take advantage of new artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms.
The energy requirement
Governments around the world are competing to drive efforts to decarbonise the economy. For example, the recently passed Inflation Reduction Act in the US includes unlimited tax credits for electric vehicles and carbon-free electricity. This could be subsidize $374 to $800 billion in sustainability loans and catalyze much more private investment.
Meanwhile, governments are struggling to plan for expected shock in the oil and gas industry caused by the war in Ukraine by a mix of tax credits and advancing blackouts this winter. Energy companies may also face significant windfalls that could reduce investment in efforts to reduce carbon emissions.
These factors have contributed to the increased interest in supporting LF Energy. For example, Shell recently joined as a Strategic Member, the highest level of membership, while Microsoft has been upgraded from General Member to Strategic Member. Other new members include Areti, a Swiss energy company, and Futurewei, Huawei’s US-based research arm.
All of these companies are betting on the continued success of the open source group.
Bet on progress
LF Energy was founded in 2018 by Executive Director Shuli Goodman with support from French energy giant RTE. Goodman told VentureBeat that the group has already reached several milestones in pursuing its mission to accelerate the energy transition to achieve its low-carbon goals.
It laid the foundation with a functional architecture in 2020 to support future power grids.
“This stack has never been defined in this way by government or industry and is already providing guidance on what is needed to operate a power network,” Goodman said.
Once this foundation was established, the group doubled the number of open source projects it hosted in 2021.
Earlier this year, 20 members contributed to the publication of the Action plan for digitalisation of energy to help coordinate open source efforts in academia, industry and governments. It also plans to roll out the LF Energy Standards and Specification (LFESS) soon.
“While our focus so far has been on software development, building standards to ensure interoperability and scalability and reduce the risk of infrastructure stranded in the future is essential,” said Goodman.
Simplify CO2 reporting
Carbon data specification (CDS) is designed to create a semantic ontology and global standard for energy generation and consumption data. This allows apps and tools to calculate generation usage and carbon intensity. So far, no specification has been defined by other efforts.
“Currently, every utility, supplier and commercial customer designs their best estimate and makes assumptions based on that, even if it isn’t detailed or detailed enough to really drive decarbonization of the grid,” Goodman said.
Organizations typically allocate energy consumption based on predetermined weighting estimates, which vary by company and region. The CDS will provide more detailed details to help companies respond to hourly fuel mixes, which will help assess the impact of hourly variations. It will also make it easier to account for energy consumption that drives decarbonization, which is difficult to take into account these days.
Standardizing Electric Digital Twins
The LF Energy community also brings together several tools to improve real-time guidance for energy policy using simulation and digital twins. They recently took over the stewardship of the Pacific Northwest National Lab from GridLAB-D, which complements an existing effort called PowSyBI for power system modeling. These efforts will help enterprises commercialize more accurate digital twins and simulation tools for planning, maintenance and control.
“Digital twins are essential, very complex software, and it’s very difficult to get good dynamic expressions of these super-complex systems, which we hope this kind of modeling will help address,” Goodman said.
Consolidate EV Infrastructure
As electric vehicles (EVs) take off, owners are faced with a myriad of different charging stations with different apps, software and payment schemes. Just as the EU recently enacted a law single charging stand for phones after years of dongle chaos – the LF Energy Everest project could help bring similar standardization to much more expensive car charging.
Today, EV customers cannot switch between different charging environments created by proprietary charging solutions. Proprietary solutions embedded in thousands of chargers are exposed to the risk of a company going under or abandoning a proprietary standard, which can lead to stranded infrastructure and a waste of time and investment. Open source solutions like Everest provide interoperability and a consistent experience across infrastructure, accelerating the transition to digital mobility.
Unlock the Meter App Market
Power meters today use an assortment of operating systems and applications. Some proprietary meters run embedded Linux, but with different supporting hardware and software.
“We try to provide reference designs for both software and hardware that can be used anywhere as a virtual node,” explains Goodman. “This ensures interoperability, lower costs and speed scalability.”
Existing developments in smart meters have made it easier to eliminate manual meter readings. The new reference design of the Super Advanced Meter will provide a standard platform for community energy, virtual power plants and enhanced automation. It can also breathe new life into promising technologies such as: infrastructure-mediated detection that used AI to centrally monitor individual devices.
Goodman said commercialization is their main goal for the coming year.
“We need to increase the scalability of the entire community and prepare them for the energy transition. This requires the development of open source solutions and standards that can be quickly integrated into proprietary use cases. We also need to make sure that the software is hardened through security best practices and create the right documentation so that everyone can use it,” she said. “All of our efforts are focused on making commercial adoption easier. and bring value to everyone from technology companies to generators, utilities, broadcasters, distributors and end users.”
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