Powering Our Transition Into a Cleaner Future

Renewables are rising, but our grids weren't built for them. A Canadian firm's software solutions are helping utility companies keep up.


In Canada, our electricity grid infrastructure stems from an era when energy was cheap and carbon pollution wasn’t on any designer’s mind. As consumer demands shifted and the need for cleaner energy became apparent, hooking up renewables to these grids was the next step, but getting them to operate efficiently on old infrastructure was a challenge.

This paved the way for smart grids, which are modernizing electricity delivery. However, utility providers are now under pressure to optimize aging systems that weren’t designed to host innovations like two-way power flows and variable distributed energy resources (DERs).

Opus One Solutions is a software engineering and cleantech group that assists utility companies with optimizing their energy distribution planning. Physically overhauling the nation’s entire electricity system would cost billions. Opus One bypassed the issue with a software-based solution called GridOS that uses modelling to help companies visualize inefficiencies and better integrate renewable energy sources with existing infrastructure.

GridOS can seek out inefficiencies in these fragmented and stocky power systems, offering an efficient way to manage, distribute, and consume energy. This is a double win for consumers and utility groups as it makes the energy supply cheaper, cleaner, and more reliable.

GridOS software

GridOS integrates traditional distribution planning with DERs, which are localized electricity-producing resources that are hooked up to a centralized distribution system, like solar panels, wind turbines, biomass generators, fuel cells, power plants, and natural gas-fuelled generators. They are generally smaller in scale than the traditional, centralized generation facilities that are the powerhouses of provinces like Ontario.

DERs mark one of the most significant changes to electricity systems around the world, and utility groups must grapple with managing greater penetrations of localized energy sources. More than 40% of energy customers are expected to rely on DERs by 2027, and that could rise to 60% by 2050.

GridOS can meet these demands owing to its scalable and modular nature, and it integrates effortlessly with existing data systems to maximize the efficiency of DERs. GridOS can also be used to manage microgrids (found in homes, businesses, and local communities), adding resiliency and value for the consumer at a local level.

The software works by creating a “digital twin” of the physical distribution network. This modelling of the grid helps utility groups to analyze and optimize the network by delivering real-time energy management. Utility workers can visualize the flow of energy across the network and spot constraints, which cause congestion in the grid. Complex planning analyses can also be performed, and that can tell workers whether a DER is able to alleviate a network constraint.

Global Cleantech 100 nomination

A prominent example of GridOS in action is with the state of Oregon, which has been working towards an ambitious renewable power goal in recent years. Portland General Electric (PGE) teamed up with Opus One to revise its existing planning methods and implement direct DER investment and incentives. The collaboration helped PGE’s engineers to better understand the effects on the system when adding DERs to the transmission lines and where to target investments in the grid.

“The rise of DERs has created the need for optimized distribution networks,” said Mark Hormann, Vice President, Key Accounts at Opus One. “We were pleased that GridOS aligned to PGE’s efforts to increase focus towards data-driven grid planning.”

Opus One was recently named a 2021 Global Cleantech 100 Company, marking the fourth year in a row that they’ve received this nomination.

“Our mission at Opus One is to build innovative and state-of-the-art energy planning solutions that evolve and meet the needs of the ever-changing electricity ecosystem,” said Joshua Wong, Opus One Founder and CEO in a press release. “We couldn’t be more thrilled to be recognized as a leading Global Cleantech company for the fourth consecutive year.”

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Barry is a journalist, editor, and marketer for several media outlets including HeadStuff, The Media Editor, and Buttonmasher Magazine. He earned his Master of the Arts in Journalism from Dublin City University in 2017 and moved to Toronto to pursue a career in the media. Barry is passionate about communicating and debating culture, science, and politics and their collective global impact.