Energy resilience can be achieved with open-source software

A MICROGRID is a group of interconnected loads and distributed energy resources within clearly defined electrical boundaries that acts as a single controllable entity with respect to the larger grid.
Sheila Zabeu -

June 28, 2023

Using open-source solutions to drive energy resilience through microgrids. That was the focus of a recent Linux Foundation publication that details the current state of the microgrid market and explains how open-source systems can help accelerate the adoption of microgrids around the world. Microgrids, or microgrids, are groups of distributed energy resources with the ability to operate as part of a larger network or isolated as an island.

For the Linux Foundation, the way to manage the increasing complexity of energy systems to make them more efficient, reliable and sustainable may be through the use of open source software in a broad process of digitalization of the energy sector. One of the main advantages of open source is that it is free or low-cost to use and distribute, as well as being adaptable and can be customised according to the specific needs of each environment.

One of the most important aspects of the digital transformation of microgrids is to transform them into smart grids that enable two-way communication between utilities and consumers using sensing capabilities along transmission lines. The traditional model still widely used is characterised by a unidirectional, centralised, top-down approach with a small number of large companies controlling the majority of power generation and distribution. Consumers have limited opportunities to produce and store energy and few tools to control consumption and reduce waste.

Source: The Linux Foundation

“Today we face a dual challenge: climate change and affordable and reliable energy for all. In this context, our report describes the opportunities for open source to accelerate the proliferation of microgrids as a mechanism for clean energy production and consumption. We now have a clearer picture,” says Hilary Carter, senior vice president of research and communications at the Linux Foundation.

Microgrids driven by digitalisation can integrate renewable energy sources, for example, with Internet of Things (IoT) sensors and control systems. Smart grids can also use real-time data to balance supply and demand, reducing the need to rely on fossil fuel-based plants.

The Linux Foundation’s research provides insigths and recommendations for stakeholders wishing to engage with open-source microgrid initiatives. According to the report, microgrids are an essential tool for improving energy resilience and promoting decarbonization. However, this market faces several challenges that the open-source ecosystem can help address. The main revelations of the study are:

  • Improving access to microgrid resources helps reduce barriers to energy access, expertise and understanding for all stakeholders.
  • Accelerating microgrid projects and time to market helps overcome economic and political obstacles through open data sharing, greater cost efficiency and modularity.
  • Improving interoperability and standards adoption helps promote collaboration, consensus, transparency, and compatibility for the entire technology stack.
  • It is recommended to develop business models for microgrids via software, support and consulting services, training and certification, customization and integration, collaborative partnerships and advanced modularity.
  • Promoting innovation towards energy resilience at scale by supporting the adoption of open source oriented business models will help reap security and cost reduction benefits demonstrated in the IT and telecoms sectors.

How open source software can help

In the not too distant future, utilities will no longer have full control over energy systems. Because of the fragmentation of the industry with microgrids, not all technologies involved in energy production, transmission, and distribution will be compatible. Therefore, current methods based on closed-source systems will have to be replaced to adopt metering standards that ensure interoperability and compatibility and, ultimately, vendor neutrality.

Open-source solutions can enable real-time monitoring of energy systems, easy communication of data with various types of devices and programmes, and collaborative development of services and applications.

According to the Linux Foundation, about two thirds of the organizations in the energy sector stated in the survey that more than half of the software used is open source. Moreover, almost all of them show intention to use it. Only a small portion of the respondents are not aware of concepts such as OSPO (Open Source Program Office or open source competence center in organizations).

Details on energy sector companies

Most energy companies surveyed by the Linux Foundation have a clear strategic plan for digitization and have already implemented it. However, there are regional differences, as presented in the following chart – 62% in Europe; 78% in North America and 84 in Asia-Pacific.

Interviewees also confirmed that digitalization plays a key role in decarbonizing the energy sector through new services, business models and automation specifications, as well as through collaboration between operators and other stakeholders.

On the other hand, the lack of digitalization initiatives in energy sector companies can have several consequences, such as issues related to competitiveness, loss of opportunities in the electrification area, and increased operating costs and regulatory issues, among others.