Five minutes with Dr Shuli Goodman, LF Energy executive director

Dr Shuli Goodman
Dr Shuli Goodman

LF Energy is an open-source foundation for the power systems sector. Open source refers to a type of computer software in which source code is released under a license and it can be altered for the benefit of the business using it. We talk to LF Energy CEO Dr Shuli Goodman about the tech and how it is helping energy companies in the energy transition.

What does LF Energy do and what is its impact on Australia’s energy industry?

LF Energy is a nonprofit, vendor-neutral initiative hosted at The Linux Foundation, whose mission is to accelerate the energy and electricity sectors’ global decarbonisation goals through open-source technology. LF Energy projects aim to provide de facto standards through open source software that can enable the world’s power systems to transform from fossil-fuel to renewables. Memberships support the ecosystem through staffing, events, marketing, and services to the projects. Additionally, LF Energy members influence the strategic direction and the projects that will shape an industry for the future.

LF Energy’s impact on Australia’s energy sector includes two things. One, it is a community of distribution, transmission, and aggregation operators and vendors who are seeking to solve the same problems Australia is through shared investment and collaboration. Secondly, it is open access to a technical community and an application catalogue of software that addresses power system network operations, forecasting, analytics, markets and congestion management, edge, microgrids, and more. Going it alone is no longer viable and no longer necessary.   

Can you tell us a bit about your role as executive director of LF Energy and what it involves?

In my role, I am responsible for steering the organisation and managing its operations, including project introduction and membership recruiting. My goal as executive director of LF Energy is to inspire, train and enable 10,000 developers within the next 10 years to digitally transform the world’s power systems in order to accelerate the energy transition and the decarbonisation of the world’s economies.

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The shift away from fossil fuels is inevitable, but what tech and infrastructure do we still need in Australia to shift?

By utilising open source, the energy industry can join forces, accelerate innovation and supply clean energy globally before it is too late. This is because right now, we are working against a ticking clock. From grid replacement to green tech innovation, the global utility sector has an overwhelming amount of work to do to achieve carbon neutrality in the next ten years. Additionally, these utility companies do not have the resources and workforce needed to tackle these challenges alone. We will win this challenge on economics. By radically shifting costs towards commodity hardware and software, we will enable innovation at higher levels of value. Australia leads in customer owned resources and being able to stabilise a low inertia grid. You feel the pain of climate and the energy transition. We are here to help. LF Energy can be a tremendous support—whether in building developer talent, transitioning to cloud-based SCADA, or new tools like congestion management, avoided energy use, power system network operations, or support for managing and thriving in a high-velocity, high-volume data environment.

Can you explain open-source software and its application to the energy industry?

Open source software is essentially a permissive IP license that allows for shared investment to protect the contributions of multiple stakeholders. The Linux Foundation protects this open source software-defined infrastructure and ensures that the communities are run in safe neutral environments. Additionally, because of the all-eyes approach, enterprise open source, like we are curating at LF Energy, is more secure and not vulnerable to black-box, proprietary solutions. Open source offers better information security, with greater flexibility, and adaptability within the industry.

When it comes to the energy industry, open source allows different partners to test, contribute changes upstream, and consume the software— for free—and as needed. Because we are learning and innovating together, we can iterate faster with new releases and new software solutions at a more rapid pace. This in turn, allows operators to evolve the grid and increase renewable energy adoption faster, more securely, and with safety leading.

How can it speed up the energy transition?

The faster a country can speed up this transition, the greater it will affect energy and power at all levels. Open source speeds up the transition as it allows for organisations to share insights and innovation in the energy sector. With LF Energy, companies can easily access several different projects and then focus on solving the next problem they face. If everyone gets a boost, we can innovate faster, and avoid the dilemma of “everyone for themselves” and trying on their own to achieve base-levels.

What are the barriers to this? Why is a huge collective effort required?

It depends on what part of the world you are in. For the most part, the issue is that utilities are slow to change and have limited capacity for R&D and innovation. Due to regulations, they are dependent on vendors who are often seeking to maximise profit from old products. We need to break the stalemate. Universally, there is a lack of perspective about the scale and scope of the problem. A collective effort is needed simply because one single organisation or one single country cannot solve the climate crisis alone. The west has disproportionately contributed to climate change, so it is on us to rapidly decarbonise as we are working against a ticking clock.

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What technologies are leading the energy transition and where are the gaps?

LF Energy has several ongoing projects aimed at providing a unified approach to developing code that can enable the world’s power systems to transform:

  • Grid eXchange Fabric (GXF) aids in the widespread adoption of renewable energy by decreasing the complexity and costs of accessing IoT devices through a singular method to abstract data access. This platform will allow grid operators to monitor, control and manage smart devices on the grid. GXF is a major step in reducing the global system integration problems the utility industry is facing and making power grids more efficient and better for the environment.

  • Another project leading the transition is Hyphae. Hyphae is microgrid software that will enable the connection of buildings, homes, and energy-consuming devices to energy-producing devices like storage, EV batteries, and PV. We believe Hyphae is the seed contribution or foundation for a suite of energy web services that will be able to meet the explosion in flexibly built nano, mini, and microgrids.
  • SEAPATH, which stands for Software Enabled Automation Platform and Artifacts (THerein), aims to manage and maintain the supply of renewable energy sources such as wind and sunlight to meet the demand and frequent fluctuations of our energy grid. Through developing a “reference design” and “industrial grade” open source real-time platform that can run virtualised automation and protection applications, it is intended to host multi-provider applications.
  • Service-based Open-source Grid automation platform for Network Operation of the future (SOGNO) is creating plug-and-play, cloud-native, micro-services to implement the next generation of data-driven monitoring and control systems. It will simplify the life of distribution utilities by enabling network operations optimisation through open source to deliver cost-effective, seamless and secure power supply to customers. SOGNO introduces the idea of grid automation as a modular system in which components can be added through time, which is in opposition to classical monolithic solutions.

The LF Energy functional architecture is a taxonomy of more than 200 power systems functions. The architecture represents an application catalogue of communication requirements between hardware, use cases, control, orchestration, analytics, and choreography between supply and demand. We are just beginning!