Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

Interactive energy could be answer to Panama’s demand growth

Steve Rogerson
July 28, 2016
Interactive energy platform (IEP) developer Innovari and Panamanian utility Ensa went live this month with a 1MW IEP project, with plans for long-term expansion that will help the utility improve system utilisation, meet growing energy demands with reduced infrastructure investment, and harden the grid to improve power reliability and the customer experience.
In this pilot, partially funded by the US Trade & Development Agency, Ensa is partnering with 12 commercial and industrial facilities to unlock affordable capacity through an IEP-enabled automated demand side management programme, while leveraging the IEP to integrate capacity from two distributed generators.
The IEP is part of Ensa's 15-year concession, which began in 2013, with a commitment to invest in smart grid technology and promote grid efficiency, as the country faces 70MW per year of demand growth.
The IEP extends Ensa's control to the edge of the grid and beyond. By connecting to the edge – including customer buildings, distributed generators, storage and solar – utilities can offer unique customer services, ensure grid security and reliability, and optimise their asset portfolio to manage growing load affordably, while balancing intermittent renewable energy resources.
In addition to load growth, Panama is expected to increase the percentage of renewable generation to 60 to 70 per cent of its total mix, requiring responsive demand-side services such as Innovari's IEP to integrate and balance these resources.
"One key reason we're planning to implement the IEP is to avoid power rationing during business hours that were necessary during Panama's recent energy crisis caused by the 2013-14 drought," said Rafael Ríos, Ensa's engineering vice president. "The IEP will enable us to precisely reduce load to meet real-time capacity requirements during super peaks, while synchronising and dispatching standby generators and other edge-of-grid technologies to uphold grid reliability. We also see this as a valuable way to engage our customers."
As a true utility-operating resource, IEP capacity is available 400 or more hours annually, with real-time, two-way verifiable, closed-loop control back to the utility's operations centre, providing the predictability and reliability of a power plant. Participating end-use customers will receive automation tools to control their building settings, ensuring no operational impact.
"Participating in Ensa's IEP programme means we can easily contribute to the long-term sustainability and reliability of Panama's grid, while also realising important benefits, including incentives and free automation technology to help us better manage our long-term energy costs," said Jean Carlos Piña, energy manager, Grupo Tova, a chain of family clothing stores. "This is a simple way for us to help our nation avoid major energy crises like we've seen recently. We look forward to expanding store participation as the programme grows."
Participating customers include a business complex serving as a headquarters location for Panamanian and multi-national corporations, supermarkets, big-box retail outlets and a shopping mall.
"The IEP will deliver tremendous benefits to Panama's grid, in terms of increased energy reliability, system utilisation and efficiency, and end-use customer engagement," said Manuel Arancibia, president of Innovari in Latin America. "The events we have run to date have been a resounding success and have delivered real-time, two-way verifiable, demand-side capacity to the utility, all verified through Ensa's scada system. We are thrilled for what this pilot means for the utility, its customers and the broader community to help Ensa improve how the world uses energy."
One of two utilities serving Panama, EPM Group-subsidiary Ensa faces a 530MW peak and anticipated load growth of 30MW per year. This growth will be driven by the projected increase in low-cost housing construction and infrastructure projects, including the expansion of the Panama Canal. Sixty per cent of the country's capacity comes from hydroelectric power.