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The beginning<br />

InovCity demonstration area in Évora

The beginning

This story starts in the early 1990s. Before any specific knowledge was generated in the field of distribution networks, there was a period dedicated to fundamental research.

Between 1994 and 2006, numerous papers were published in international indexed journals ‑ some of which played an important role internationally, becoming a reference in the sector ‑ and several MSc and PhD theses were concluded.

Vladimiro Miranda, J. V. Ranito, Luis Miguel Proença, Genetic Algorithms In Optimal Multistage Distribution Network Planning, IEEE Transactions on Power Systems, vol.9, no.4, pp.1927-1933, November 1994.

It was also at this time that a series of relationships with key national and international players started being formed, such as that with the EDP, EFACEC or the ONS (operator of the Brazilian system).

High voltage substation

Generating knowledge

Generating knowledge

We can say that the generation of specific knowledge started in early 2006. In a period of ten years, over 40 papers have been published and more than 30 MCs theses and 20 PhD theses have been concluded.

Two papers mark the beginning of this new phase in the study of electricity distribution networks:

João Peças Lopes; Carlos Moreira and André Madureira, “Defining Control Strategies for MicroGrids Islanded Operation”, in IEEE Transactions on Power Systems (vol.21, no.2, pp.916-924, May 2006, with over 600 ISI WoS citations in January 2017).

João Peças Lopes; N Hatziargyriou; J Mutale; P Djapic; N Jenkins, “Integrating distributed generation into electric power systems: a review of drivers, challenges and opportunities”, in Electric Power Systems Research (vol. 77, no.9, pp. 1189-1203, 2007, with 340 ISI WoS citations in January 2017)

Much of the R&D efforts at this stage were boosted by national investments and by the European projects INOVGRID, MERGE, SuSTAINABLE, evolvDSO, ANYPLACE, UPGRID, SENSIBLE and InteGrid, where INESC TEC continues to play a fundamental role.

Supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA)

Testing in the field

Testing in the field

Turning knowledge into prototypes and pilots was made possible by the conditions offered by the EDP, which mobilised INESC TEC and several business partners to promote a profound technological development. This movement made it possible to:

  • Create one of the most advanced laboratories in the world at INESC TEC in the fields of smart grids and electric vehicles, materialising the concept of microgrids and supporting the most advanced features of a smart grid. All this thanks to projects REIVE and MICROGRIDS+EV.
  • Install a pilot grid in the city of Évora, through the InovCity ( initiative, as part of project InovGrid. This project brings together 33,000 consumers under an innovative technological paradigm in order to test and validate the concepts generated at INESC TEC.

The InovGrid marks the formal beginning of smart grids.

This stage is characterised by the participation in 13 European projects in the field of electricity distribution networks, which represent over 7 million euros for INESC TEC.

Smart Grids and Electric Vehicles Laboratory

The Impacts

The Impacts

Through projects InovGrid/InovCity and countless others, INESC TEC has managed to effectively transfer technology to companies in the energy sector, with a clear impact on the economy, as previously described.

The most relevant mechanisms that materialised this transfer were:

  • The smart city of Évora, Portugal, which serves about 30 thousand consumers through an infrastructure installed by the EDP Distribuição
  • The increasing use of this solution in the field of smart grids can represent an investment of about 600 million euros until 2020.
  • The involvement of EDP in several European projects in the area of smart grids, with a global accumulated budget of 175 million euros
  • The development, back in 1996, of the DMS system for EFACEC, represented a turnover of €2M/year. Presently, the DMS area represents €30M/year. Moreover, the area of smart grids represents 10%/year of the company’s turnover, with growth prospects above 20%/year
  • Development contracts with the delivery of software products or technical specifications
  • Consulting contracts and studies
  • Launching of two startups: Smartwatt and Prewind (turnover of about 1 million euros since 2010; INESC TEC maintains a 18.75% nominal share in the company’s share capital)
  • Transfer of people from INESC TEC to companies

The knowledge generated at INESC TEC has allowed Portugal and the EDP to guarantee a place at the forefront of smart grids implementation, guaranteeing a smooth integration, in the future, of distributed photovoltaic generation and electric vehicles, and the full capacity to open new businesses, avoiding the problems that other countries have faced.

The Future

But the story doesn’t end here…

INESC TEC is involved in several European and national projects in smart grids, other than the ongoing papers and PhD theses in this field of the energy of the future.

A European project InteGrid is an example of the exploitation of results from previous projects to market them. The creation of a new spin-off until 2020 is in the works, but that’s another story…

* The figures presented above have been provided by EDP Distribuição, EFACEC and Prewind.