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August 17, 2023

Avangrid creates in-house AI team to boost grid reliability

PHOTO | Courtesy Avangrid Avangrid’s new data science and analytics team will develop AI systems unique and proprietary to the company.

Orange-based utility company Avangrid has created an in-house team that will use artificial intelligence to help ensure reliability of the power grid during storms.

Avangrid is the parent company of electric utilities providing power to some 2.3 million customers, including United Illuminating in Connecticut.

Avangrid’s new data science and analytics team will develop AI systems unique and proprietary to the company. The team includes seven data scientists, engineers and analysts.

The goal is to use machine learning to forecast grid performance ahead of severe storms, evaluate grid conditions, and make inspections and equipment upgrades accordingly.

Avangrid CEO Pedro Azagra said the company in the past has partnered with outside third parties to use similar technology.

“Now, we have the talent in-house to create machine learning models that Avangrid will own,” Azagra said.

Owning AI systems will allow the company to continuously improve them, reduce costs, and increase efficiency, according to Azagra.

Catherine Stempien, president and CEO of Avangrid Networks, said utilities are “no longer just a poles and wires business.”

“By creating and owning these AI systems, we’re taking greater control over the care of our network, customers and communities,” she said. “Our top priority will always be the day-to-day power reliability for our customers.”

The new team is creating three different AI systems.

One, called “Predictive Health Analytics,” will determine equipment’s overall health and life expectancy based on factors such as age, frequency of use, and maintenance. Avangrid anticipates this will help it save money and reduce outages, as it can replace at-risk equipment such as circuit breakers.

The “GeoMesh” system will focus on identifying strengths and weaknesses of electric networks to forecast performance during both good weather and storms, considering factors such as wind speed, outage history and population density.

Finally, the “HealthAI” project will analyze images of Avangrid’s street-level distribution system, including poles, wires and grid equipment, to catalog their health so the company can respond with in-person inspections and maintenance. Avangrid also aims to use this to identify threats to electrical wires, such as hanging tree limbs or nearby dead trees.

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