Vector taps Alphabet's unit X for next generation electricity grid virtualisation

Vector taps Alphabet's unit X for next generation electricity grid virtualisation

Partners work to support decarbonisation and get ahead of increasing demands for clean energy.

Simon Mackenzie (Vector)

Simon Mackenzie (Vector)

Credit: Supplied

Auckland electricity infrastructure company Vector Group, already a major Amazon Web Services (AWS) partner, has inked a strategic collaboration with X, the moonshot factory, formerly Google [x].

The companies are working on network virtualisation and simulation technology to reimagine the design, management, and operation of electricity networks.

X, the moonshot factory, is a research and development organisation founded by Google in January 2010 and now operating as a subsidiary of Google parent Alphabet.

A major goal of the project is to support decarbonisation and get ahead of increasing demands for clean energy. Integrating renewable generation, storage, electric vehicles, and other technologies has become an increasingly challenging problem for electricity networks, while also balancing affordability and reliability.

“Electricity networks globally are critical infrastructure that can enable the urgent decarbonisation of transport and industry," Vector chief executive Simon Mackenzie said.

"We must ensure an affordable transition through accelerating the deployment of new technologies, including digital platforms."

The old models for designing and managing energy networks were no longer viable to manage the complexities of future energy requirements, climate change and costs, McKenzie said. 

"We first presented our strategy to X in 2019, found significant alignment, and now we have a team of experts from both companies working together.”

Audrey Zibelman, vice president and general manager for X’s moonshot for the electric grid said as consumers adopt more renewables and shift to electric vehicles, the pressure is on for networks to rapidly evolve. 

"Our collaboration with Vector is rooted in our shared understanding that the whole industry has to transform," she said.

Resources minister Megan Woods said the government was ambitious for NZ's energy system and recognised becoming a net-zero economy would require operators to have the best tools available to manage their networks and inform investment decisions.

“Electricity networks have a big role to play to support the decarbonisation of industry and transport as demand for electricity increases and it is important that they evolve to meet future energy needs," Woods said.

“It is encouraging to see new technology being developed in New Zealand which could be applied to decarbonise the power system across the globe."

The collaboration could support the goal to have 100 per cent of electricity generated from renewable sources and had the potential to assist others in the industry with tools to manage their systems, Woods said.

Zibelman announced X’s electric grid moonshot at the White House Leaders Summit on Climate in April 2021.

Vector will deploy the solutions initially in the Auckland region, but also plans to make them available more broadly.

"We want to ensure that Vector, and other transmission and distribution companies, have the tools to dynamically manage their systems, ensuring we’re never in the way of customers wanting to adopt renewable energy solutions and electric vehicles," said Vector's chief digital officer, Shailesh Manga.

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