Grid Modernization and Infrastructure Upgrades for Smart Grid

Detailed overview of innovation with sample startups and prominent university research

What it is

Grid modernization and infrastructure upgrades involve updating and improving the existing electricity grid to enhance its reliability, resilience, and capacity to integrate renewable energy sources and distributed energy resources (DERs). This includes upgrading aging infrastructure, deploying new technologies, and implementing advanced grid management systems.

Impact on climate action

Grid Modernization and Infrastructure Upgrades under Smart Grids advance climate action by enhancing grid efficiency, reliability, and integration of renewable energy sources. By optimizing energy distribution, reducing transmission losses, and facilitating renewable energy adoption, this innovation accelerates the transition to a low-carbon energy system, mitigating climate change impacts.


  • Advanced Power Electronics: Power electronics technologies, such as high-voltage direct current (HVDC) transmission and flexible AC transmission systems (FACTS), can improve grid efficiency, controllability, and capacity.
  • Smart Grid Technologies: Smart grid technologies, including advanced sensors, communication networks, and data analytics, enable real-time monitoring and control of the grid, improving reliability and facilitating the integration of DERs.
  • Energy Storage: Energy storage systems, such as batteries and pumped hydro storage, can provide grid services, such as frequency regulation and peak shaving, and support the integration of renewable energy sources.
  • Microgrids: Microgrids can provide localized energy resilience and support grid operations by reducing demand on the main grid during peak periods.
  • Cybersecurity: As the grid becomes more digital and interconnected, cybersecurity solutions are essential to protect against cyberattacks and ensure grid security.

TRL : 6-8 (depending on the specific technology and application)

Prominent Innovation themes

  • Grid-Scale Energy Storage: Advancements in battery technology and other energy storage solutions are enabling the deployment of large-scale energy storage systems that can provide grid services and support the integration of renewable energy.
  • Advanced Distribution Automation: Innovations in distribution automation technologies, such as self-healing grids and fault location, isolation, and service restoration (FLISR) systems, are improving grid reliability and reducing outage times.
  • Dynamic Line Rating (DLR): DLR technology uses sensors and weather data to determine the real-time capacity of transmission lines, allowing for more efficient use of existing infrastructure.
  • Advanced Grid Management Systems: AI and machine learning are being used to develop advanced grid management systems that can optimize grid operations, predict potential issues, and improve grid resilience.

Other Innovation Subthemes

  • Enhanced Grid Resilience
  • Integration of Renewable Energy
  • Advanced Power Electronics Solutions
  • Real-time Grid Monitoring
  • Distributed Energy Resource Management
  • Optimization of Grid Operations
  • Grid-Scale Energy Storage Deployment
  • Self-Healing Grid Technologies
  • Dynamic Line Rating Implementation
  • AI-Powered Grid Management
  • Microgrid Development and Deployment
  • Grid Congestion Management
  • Grid Stability Enhancement
  • Next-generation Grid Control Systems
  • Renewable Energy Integration Strategies
  • Data Analytics for Grid Optimization
  • Advanced Distribution Automation
  • Voltage Fluctuation Management
  • Blockchain for Grid Data Management

Sample Global Startups and Companies

  1. LineVision:
    • Technology Enhancement: LineVision specializes in advanced sensor technology and data analytics for monitoring and optimizing power transmission and distribution lines. Their solution involves the deployment of non-contact sensors along utility lines to collect real-time data on line conditions, including temperature, sag, and conductor movement. This data is analyzed using machine learning algorithms to detect anomalies, predict failures, and optimize grid performance.
    • Uniqueness of the Startup: LineVision stands out for its innovative approach to grid monitoring and optimization, offering a non-intrusive and cost-effective solution for utilities to enhance the reliability and efficiency of their transmission and distribution networks. By providing actionable insights into line health and performance, LineVision helps utilities reduce outage risks, improve asset management, and optimize grid operations.
    • End-User Segments Addressing: LineVision serves electric utilities, grid operators, and renewable energy developers seeking to modernize and optimize their grid infrastructure. Their technology is deployed in transmission and distribution networks to improve reliability, resilience, and asset utilization, supporting the integration of renewable energy sources and the transition to a smarter and more sustainable grid.
  2. Smarter Grid Solutions:
    • Technology Enhancement: Smarter Grid Solutions specializes in software solutions for grid optimization and control, including advanced distribution management systems (ADMS) and distributed energy resource management systems (DERMS). Their platform enables real-time monitoring, control, and optimization of distributed energy resources (DERs), such as solar PV, energy storage, and electric vehicles, to improve grid stability and resilience.
    • Uniqueness of the Startup: Smarter Grid Solutions stands out for its expertise in DER integration and grid management, offering flexible and scalable software solutions that enable utilities to maximize the value of distributed energy assets. Their platform facilitates active network management, dynamic grid balancing, and seamless integration of DERs, helping utilities adapt to evolving grid conditions and customer needs.
    • End-User Segments Addressing: Smarter Grid Solutions serves electric utilities, distribution network operators (DNOs), and energy service providers seeking to optimize grid performance and integrate renewable energy resources. Their software solutions are deployed in distribution networks worldwide to address challenges such as voltage management, grid congestion, and grid stability, supporting the transition to a more decentralized and renewable energy-driven grid.
  3. Varentec:
    • Technology Enhancement: Varentec specializes in grid-edge control solutions for voltage and power quality management in distribution networks. Their technology includes advanced power electronics and control algorithms that enable dynamic voltage regulation, reactive power compensation, and grid optimization at the distribution transformer level. By actively managing voltage and power quality, Varentec’s solutions help utilities improve grid reliability, efficiency, and integration of renewable energy.
    • Uniqueness of the Startup: Varentec stands out for its focus on grid-edge control and its ability to address voltage and power quality challenges in distribution networks. Their innovative solutions offer utilities a cost-effective way to enhance grid performance and accommodate the increasing penetration of distributed generation and electric vehicles. By providing real-time control and optimization capabilities at the grid edge, Varentec helps utilities optimize grid assets and defer costly infrastructure upgrades.
    • End-User Segments Addressing: Varentec serves electric utilities, distribution system operators, and renewable energy developers seeking to improve grid reliability and efficiency. Their grid-edge control solutions are deployed in distribution networks to address voltage fluctuations, mitigate grid congestion, and enhance power quality, supporting the integration of distributed energy resources and the transition to a more resilient and adaptive grid.

Sample Research At Top-Tier Universities

  1. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT):
    • Research Focus: MIT is a leader in research on Grid Modernization and Infrastructure Upgrades, focusing on developing advanced technologies, strategies, and policy frameworks to modernize the electrical grid, enhance grid resilience, and facilitate the integration of renewable energy sources and distributed energy resources (DERs).
    • Uniqueness: Their research spans various aspects of grid modernization, including advanced sensing and monitoring technologies, predictive analytics, grid optimization algorithms, and cybersecurity solutions. They also investigate novel grid architectures, energy storage systems, and demand-side management strategies to improve grid reliability, efficiency, and flexibility.
    • End-use Applications: The outcomes of their work have applications in utility operations, energy management, and grid planning. By advancing grid modernization and infrastructure upgrades, MIT’s research supports the transition to a more resilient, sustainable, and responsive electricity system, enabling the integration of clean energy technologies and the adoption of innovative grid services.
  2. Stanford University:
    • Research Focus: Stanford University conducts innovative research on Grid Modernization and Infrastructure Upgrades, leveraging its expertise in power systems, control theory, and data analytics to develop transformative solutions for enhancing grid performance, optimizing grid operations, and enabling the transition to a smarter and more resilient grid.
    • Uniqueness: Their research encompasses the development of advanced control algorithms, distributed energy management systems, and real-time monitoring platforms for optimizing grid reliability, stability, and efficiency. They also explore the integration of renewable energy sources, electric vehicles, and energy storage systems to support grid decarbonization and demand-side flexibility.
    • End-use Applications: The outcomes of their work find applications in grid automation, microgrid deployment, and grid-edge intelligence. By driving grid modernization and infrastructure upgrades, Stanford’s research contributes to enhancing grid resilience, enabling grid-to-vehicle integration, and empowering consumers to participate in grid services and energy markets.
  3. Carnegie Mellon University (CMU):
    • Research Focus: CMU is engaged in cutting-edge research on Grid Modernization and Infrastructure Upgrades, leveraging its expertise in energy systems modeling, optimization, and cyber-physical systems to develop innovative solutions for enhancing grid reliability, security, and efficiency.
    • Uniqueness: Their research involves the development of advanced modeling and simulation tools, grid resilience assessment frameworks, and risk management strategies to address emerging challenges such as extreme weather events, cyber threats, and operational uncertainties. They also explore grid interoperability standards, distributed control architectures, and grid-edge technologies to enable seamless integration of DERs and grid-responsive loads.
    • End-use Applications: The outcomes of their work have applications in grid resilience planning, emergency response, and infrastructure investment decisions. By advancing grid modernization and infrastructure upgrades, CMU’s research supports the development of adaptive and resilient electricity systems capable of withstanding disruptions, optimizing resource utilization, and accommodating future growth in renewable energy penetration.

commercial_img Commercial Implementation

Grid modernization and infrastructure upgrades are ongoing efforts by utilities and grid operators around the world. For example, many utilities are investing in upgrading aging infrastructure, deploying smart grid technologies, and installing grid-scale energy storage systems.