enxchange Transforms the Energy Sector With Graph-Based Digital Twins

“You cannot create transformational change without transformational technology. That’s what graph represents in this industry.”

– David Swank, CEO, EnXchange

  • Up to 30% reduction in energy consumption
  • 10-15% to as low as 2% predicted reduction in utility line loss
  • Reduced peak demand costs

Electrical grid orchestrator enx ei360 deployed Neo4j’s graph technology to create a digital twin of energy grids, enabling real-time management, predictive insights, and up to 30% cost savings.

Fires roar up and down the US Pacific Northwest every year, devastating and displacing entire communities. Climate change and inclement weather, paired with human behavior and infrastructure failures, lead to disaster. The last thing any utility provider wants is to spark a fire in the region it serves — but it’s happened before. Effective load management is also a challenge for every utility company. The stakes are high without it: customers go without power, public safety is at risk, and downtime is expensive. A utility company can lose as much as $20,000 per hour during an outage, and outages typically persist for 4-6 hours.

enxchange (enx) is an energy intelligence platform company that exists to solve these problems. It enables customers like Oregon Trails Electric Cooperative (OTEC) to reliably mitigate fire risks, proactively monitor their grid, and manage strain while factoring in real-time weather reports. enx achieves this by a digital twin of OTEC’s physical grid using a Neo4j graph database.

“We are in the most transformational time in the energy sector,” says enx CEO David Swank. “You can’t create transformational change without transformational technology. And to me, that’s what graph represents in this industry.”

Graph: The ‘It Factor’ enx Was Looking For to Connect Siloed Systems

David Swank is an energy industry veteran and a visionary for the future of utilities. In 2016, he was building a 700-acre microgrid when he was first introduced to graph: “It was that very moment I realized we had something that would serve as a transformational foundation. Graph is the ‘it factor’ we’ve been looking for.”

Graph’s flexibility and interconnectedness unlocks solutions for complicated problems, allowing siloed systems to easily share data. Fast-forward in time, and enx’s energy intelligence 360 (ei350) platform offers practical solutions for real-world problems like public safety power shutoff (PSPS) plans in times of emergency. The enx ei360 platform enables the future of complex energy management through IoT, multi-vendor data aggregation, AI, control schemes, and visualization. Its Insights Center, underpinned by Neo4j graph technology, offers tools for scenario-building and provides data-driven insights that pave the way for predictive and prescriptive actions.    

Even with advancements in the IoT, many appliances and microgrids aren’t yet interoperable. Massive quantities of data are available across the utilities industry, but Swank observes that only 4% of this data is ever used. He also notes that utility companies typically overbuild their infrastructure to overcompensate for a lack of insight into their actual load, leading large states like Texas and California to resort to regular rolling blackouts as a control measure. 

Understanding where and how power is generated and consumed requires a virtual power grid that mirrors the structure of its physical counterpart. This virtual grid must also connect and visualize asset data of the users and their behaviors.

Swank asks: “How do we create a virtual grid from ‘generation to toaster’?” — and consider both the microgrid and internal building systems, such as HVAC and lighting, for optimal efficiency. With the right technology, buildings with grid-interactive efficient building (GEB) controllers, for example, can intuitively regulate energy consumption based on factors like weather and occupancy without manual intervention. 

Creating Radical Real-Time Efficiency While Reducing Costs

Another enx customer faced a similar challenge: Quality Care ER, based in Texas, collaborated with enx to address the energy consumption of its radiology department. Upon investigation, the enx professional services team discovered that the activation of CT scanners led to significant spikes in energy usage, contributing to peak demand. With enx’s assistance, the hospital identified areas where excess power was available. Through the ei360 platform and integrating various building systems such as HVACs, water heating, and X-ray machines, the surplus load could be managed. Furthermore, the system could utilize solar and battery power resources.

This outcome highlights the growing demand for real-time performance from our physical grid. When we flip a switch, we anticipate instant illumination. However, in essence, the journey of an electron to our homes involves a sprawling and ever-more intricate process of energy generation, transmission, and distribution.

“The utility network really is a graph,” Swank explains. “We’re striving to create that kind of architecture because linear structure prohibits the grid from being as efficient as possible.”

enx’s platform is bidirectional: it ingests data and pushes data back to connected systems. This allows customers to see their usage and glean insights. “That’s where the ROI is,” Swank says.

Today, OTEC and other enx customers have ground-breaking access to predictive insight and actionable data to help mitigate the impact of wildfires. The enx digital twin unveils hidden risks, allowing OTEC to take precise actions with minimal impact on its members, like shutting down a feeder instead of an entire substation.

Load management and forecasting don’t have to be guesswork, and Neo4j empowers much of this. “Moving into understanding risk and taking predictive actions has been the dream, and graph technology has enabled that,” Swank says.

“I believe we’re in the era of abundance,” he continues. “We don’t need to be talking about band-aiding approaches. As a collective group, we should be talking about how this technology can provide more abundance instead of thinking we don’t have enough power. We can create efficiency we’ve never seen before, and if it’s not real-time, it won’t work.”

Swank believes predictive cloud technology, via digital twins, can reduce over-built infrastructure costs by as much as 30%, eliminating downtime and lost revenue. Graph-based data can also inform utility companies’ carbon footprints and has the capacity to become part of the R&D arm, potentially reducing line loss and load factors from margins of 10-15% to as little as 2%.

Swank is effusive about the future of energy: “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over but expecting a different result. We’re looking at such exponential capabilities and growth in today’s world. There are new technologies that provide new ways of thinking. I always tell people, ‘You can’t go where you’ve never been before,’ and I believe that’s what graph has done for us. It’s allowed us to go places we never dreamed of and opened up capabilities I’d never even thought of.”

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