Chris Law is the co-founder and CEO of Future Grid. He is dedicated to helping utilities around the world to integrate renewables at scale and thus decarbonising the grid. With over 20 years of experience in the energy market working for companies like AusNet Services, AGL in Australia, and the startup GridNet in San Francisco, he is well connected within the industry. Chris is a wine connoisseur, a coffee lover, and enjoys riding his bike. In this interview, he talks about what his company has to offer and what’s next for Future Grid.
E-3 Magazine: What exactly does Future Grid offer?
Chris Law: Future Grid is a software that turns smart meter data into improved grid reliability, asset management, and customer safety. Our software creates new visibility into the health of critical yet ‘invisible’ electricity assets such as wires, transformers, and fuses in support of the transition to renewable energy. Using Future Grid’s software, utilities are empowered to manage the increasing shifts in power quality due to renewables. Utilities can then deliver safe and reliable electricity to their customers. That’s how Future Grid is enabling the renewable grid of the future.
How does your solution work?
Law: Future Grid is a software that works by creating a real-time feedback loop that updates key utility systems with real-time insights from invisible assets within the grid. The Future Grid software has been designed to integrate many different sources within the utility, including smart meters, to create a near real-time ‘map’ of grid assets and network health. Future Grid will then execute a range of real-time analytics and integrate the results back into key systems such as SAP, ADSM, and GIS for operational actions. We call this the feedback loop, as for the first time, utilities have the ability to take grid edge data from smart meters (and in the future DER) and feedback real-time insights to help inform grid operations and control.
What are the customer-side requirements? Do they need any special technology to use your solution?
Law: Customers often need smart meters or an equivalent data source to maximise value from Future Grid. This is because the software builds a picture of the distribution network by combining this data with other network data to understand the health and performance of the low voltage (or secondary) network. To maximise the outcomes Future Grid can deliver, it would be ideal for the smart meters to collect power quality data (voltage, current, etc.). However, even with basic load data (KW), useful insights can be achieved. As the transition towards renewable energy accelerates, Future Grid is also able to use data from distributed energy data sources to replace the smart meter information as well as other IoT sensors or devices the utility may have deployed already.
Why did you start Future Grid to begin with?
Law: Future Grid is on a mission to help decarbonize electricity grids. We do this by supporting utilities to transition faster to renewable energy by helping them mitigate the negative impacts solar, batteries, and electric vehicles have on the grid as they scale. The founding team of Future Grid, Quenton Pongracz and myself, have a background of working with smart meter companies and projects around the world. We realized that utilities would need a different solution to harness the power, scale and speed of smart meters for grid management. As the technology evolved, the energy transition accelerated, and it became evident that the software we had built was ideal for solving the challenges of renewable integration for electric utilities.
How are you connected to SAP?
Law: We are part of SAP’s first utilities-focused accelerator program. Together with the SAP.io Foundry Tel Aviv team, we are focusing on providing innovative solutions for the utility industry. Over the past few months, we worked closely with SAP’s industry experts to become available on the SAP App Center. Future Grid integrates with SAP’s intelligent asset management to offer new power quality analytics use cases. The integration with the business workflows will extend clients’ analytics capabilities and enrich asset management data to support planned tasks and optimization of work orders.
How has SAP.io’s involvement impacted your journey?
Law: Working together with the SAP.io team has been an incredible opportunity to accelerate the adoption of our Future Grid software around the world. The program gives us the chance to connect with long-time SAP customers such as E.ON Innovation, part of Germany-based E.ON SE in Europe.
What’s next for Future Grid?
Law: Future Grid has managed to get a very strong market share of utilities in Australia, specifically showing strong in Q4 of 2020 where we doubled our customer count in a single quarter. We are currently focused on finalising the deployment of the Future Grid software at several utilities across Australia and New Zealand. With pilots in the U.S. market, Thailand, and Europe, Future Grid is also entering new regions and becoming a global player. We are furthermore in discussion with utilities in Hong Kong and Singapore to support their transition to renewable energy.
Thank you for the interview.
If you would like to know more about Future Grid, SAP.io included the company in their podcast mini-series energenius, where they highlight startups’ innovative solutions, their role in the energy transition, and how they bring value to SAP customers.
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