Three keys to achieving operational efficiency in the power industry
Written by Douglas Nunez, Sr. Infrastructure and Utilities Marketing Manager, AVEVA
The global power industry continues its steady march toward decarbonization, working diligently to incorporate more sustainable and renewable energy sources. However, the transition to renewable energy cannot happen overnight, and the industry must adapt to new technological and economic circumstances accordingly to meet its goals.
The question, then, becomes: How do you continue to provide a reliable service while running a profitable and sustainable operation in today’s changing landscape?
Thankfully, this is not an either/or proposition. Leading power industry organizations recognize that operational excellence leads to more efficient resource consumption (fuel and water) and less byproduct waste (gas emissions and ash). Producing more with less increases your profit margins and decreases your carbon footprint. This model is beneficial to power generators and transmission and distribution (T&D) organizations alike throughout the electric grid supply chain.
Three keys for operational efficiency
Generally speaking, adopting digital technologies that are integrated with operational data is paramount to achieving operational efficiency. To improve operational efficiency, you should:
1. Maximize situational awareness. For years, electricity was generated in fossil-fueled, large, and centralized plants. It was then transmitted to the end users over vast distances. Now, electricity from renewable sources continues to displace these centralized plants. Every day, more distributed energy sources (DERs) are incorporated into the grid, increasing the bi-directional flow of electricity. Now, consumers can also be producers of electricity (prosumers), depending on the time of day or market conditions. This evolving model adds complexity to electricity generation, transmission, and distribution, requiring agile and more reliable operations. Automation technology not only helps to prevent human error but also frees operators to concentrate on preventing failures or process upsets while increasing collaboration and guiding corrective actions. Cloud-enabled operational control systems enhance situational awareness by delivering real-time, accurate data to facilitate informed decision-making and provide universal visibility tailored to a user’s specific role.
2. Prioritize your data management infrastructure. For any long-term strategy, the adoption of digital tools and the continued use of renewable energy increases the data complexity of industrial operations. Optimizing operational efficiency and productivity relies on visibility across the value chain. Decisions made by one stakeholder almost always rely on decisions made by other stakeholders. These decisions need to be made in real time, but must be based on data shared across the ecosystem. Data must be available to a broader set of consumers and decision-makers in real time, but it must be accessible without jeopardizing data integrity or operational safety.
3. Contextualize data with centralized visualization. Data alone is not enough. Contextualization is the key to actionable information. Visualization tools should provide operators not only with data, but with data that is presented in an accessible format, so as to promote collaboration and quick decision-making. Data contextualization and visualization must integrate engineering, operations, and other data from across the organization (financial) and third-party sources (such as weather) to provide complete end-to-end visualization. To maximize operational efficiency, this platform needs to be open but secure.
Western Power, an Australian power company serving more than 1.1 million customers, uses AVEVA™ PI System™ to power over 50 displays, allowing operators to visualize everything from a simple emergency status indicator to a massive real-time map of the entire transmission network. These insights enable it to increase response time and improve situational awareness. Similarly, AVEVA helped Exelon corporation to transform its diagnostic process, giving engineers and operators a shared set of data to use when making crucial decisions.