Mar. 30, 2022

Successfully digitalizing electrical infrastructures

  • Article
  • Mission Critical
  • Network Operation
  • Digital substation solutions

Digitalizing electrical infrastructures could be a long process, because it includes the initial project overview, design, implementation and coordination with operators to operate and maintain the system. These days, stakeholders at every level must be involved, either directly or indirectly, at all phases of a project to deploy digital solutions. Of course, it’s critical to assemble a multidisciplinary team with the necessary skills to successfully deploy these solutions. After deployment, the foundation is in place to modernize power system operation centres.

  1. Digital solutions are flexible and help improve practices and processes in the following areas:

    • Generation management
    • Transmission management
    • Distribution management
    • Incident and emergency management
    • Client and partner information systems
    • Power systems operation centre
    • Energy transition systems
    • Electrification of the transmission system

    Actively participating in energy transition

    Over the next few years, operators of electrical infrastructures of all sizes will need to adapt and undertake collaborative approaches with their key customers to support the energy transition. This means adopting a soft approach that will facilitate relationships among stakeholders, including local decision-makers, technical committees, department managers, technical project specialists, engineers, managers and, sometimes, the public.

    While investments in digitalizing critical electrical infrastructures are long-term in nature, the benefits are immediate. Access to a wealth of new information optimizes existing processes and facilitates decision making, specifically on the following issues:

    • Planning local, regional, national and international infrastructure
    • Planning CAPEX and OPEX projects and funding
    • Developing new projects
    • Monitoring, operating and maintaining systems remotely
    • Ensuring installation sustainability
    • Maintaining critical telecommunications infrastructure between substations and operation centres
    • Training and upgrading skills for the new generation

    Telecommunications are key to the approach

    Telecommunications are a crucial element in facilitating the rollout of digital solutions for critical electrical infrastructures and for their interconnection to fully integrated network operations centres. The secret is to bridge the gap between analog and digital technologies, while using new telecommunication protocols and standards. At the specifications stage, all needs must be considered to ensure that a reliable and sustainable telecommunications network can be delivered and installed. New service models must already be anticipated, making it easier for operators to do their jobs, addressing labour shortages and, where necessary, supporting activities that require specialized resources. These service models will apply to various infrastructures, platforms, software and businesses.

    Moreover, multi-purpose technologies need to be deployed. This is an opportunity to lay the groundwork for an integrated smart grid. The key is to rely on an open system using the 61850 protocol. In all critical sectors and systems, operational technologies must be considered above all, while also taking into account information technologies. Pushing updates and fixing issues through a resilient telecommunications network has never been so easy.

    From digital substations to network operation centres

    When building technology infrastructures, a step-by-step approach must consider software migrations, but inevitably tends toward modernizing the network operation centre to make it more robust, flexible and ready for future needs, planting the seeds for better energy transition. Operation centres are a highly effective tool for building a smart grid for existing and future critical infrastructures. These can be strategically located but can also be virtual with the advent of new technologies.

    Proper systems engineering

    The systems engineering process must consider NERC-CIP requirements, the cybersecurity framework, remote access and control tools, and electrical infrastructure asset management. Make sure you have specialized engineering resources who have all the necessary skills to plan a successful migration from your existing analog technologies to a digital infrastructure.

    The communications network linking operation centres, substations and individual consumers must be resilient and based on standard practices. It pays to set guidelines on open data sharing for the various partners to promote essential collaboration to energy transition.

    Trust BBA

    BBA has deployed multiple digital substation solutions for critical infrastructure based on best practices in telecommunications. The goal is to build a state-of-the-art communication network in electrical infrastructures using protocols such as the 61850 standard. The approach is based on defined system engineering and operational technology practices and allows any type of product to be integrated, regardless of the manufacturer.

This content is for general information purposes only. All rights reserved ©BBA

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