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The Role of Asset Performance Management in Energy’s Digital Net Zero Solutions

Nov. 22, 2022

How can digitalisation help to “green” the power industry?  

Electricity grids globally are becoming more complex due to several converging factors. Grids are receiving more renewable energy, which is produced at different times in highly varying amounts, putting pressure on grid stability. There are more input sources, at the grid level from substantive new connections, and prolific new “grid edge” suppliers such as community renewable energy projects, PV sites, and residential feed-in sources. This causes energy backflow which neither the grid infrastructure nor protection schemes were designed for. Alongside this, demand is increasing with the growth of electrification in rail travel, high growth in electric vehicles and a shift to residential heating with electric heat source pumps, as the world strives to decarbonise. 

Digitalisation is part of the solution for managing this increasing complexity. Digital transformation is happening rapidly, right across the energy sector, with increased condition monitoring, sensors and analytics to enable smart grids and insight to grid assets to enable predictive maintenance and reduce outages and the use of grid edge technologies and smart meters to control domestic energy usage. 

Whilst the focus is clearly on operational grid elements there are further gains to be made through digital technology with the large-scale adoption of Asset Performance Management (APM) technology. This basket of technologies enables operational and maintenance professionals  to see and evaluate electrical infrastructure performance. With the prediction of potential asset failure, we can reduce the number of unplanned system outages and the required grid operations and maintenance interventions, saving unnecessary costs, and allowing companies to plan MRO (maintenance, repair and overhaul) budgets more accurately. Underperforming or failing assets – for example, transformers, bushings, switchgear and overhead lines and more – can be identified more readily and proactively managed, avoiding unplanned outages at huge cost to the operator.  

By effectively tracking the condition and performance of assets through their life cycle, APM can help to “green the grid”. Although assets have a limited life cycle, unnecessary maintenance, refurbishment, or replacement are not always the most environmentally friendly options. Good asset maintenance helps utilities operate more efficiently and minimizes energy consumption and unnecessary waste. Using artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies, APM users can make predictions and decisions that prevent or improve asset performance issues before they arise. “This ensures that all assets are operating at their optimal capacity,” says Jože Bizjak, a spokesman at Megger partner IPS Intelligent Process Solutions. “Fundamentally, the use of predictive maintenance strategies leads to a reduction in unnecessary maintenance and the inefficient use of spare materials and parts needed to perform maintenance.” 

Industries that are dependent on their assets, such as utilities, are more advanced in implementing their asset management strategy. The global APM market will see many changes in the coming years, in terms of architectural flexibility and cloud and SaaS (software as a service) delivery, leading to significant growth. Analysts’ estimates vary but Grand View Research estimates CAGR of 11.8% from 2022 to 2030.   

How can asset management optimize grid performance? 

“If you consider a country’s electricity grid as the biggest man-made machine in the world, the more efficiently it runs, the less energy it consumes,” says Jill Duplessis, Director, Global Content Strategy at Megger. “Assets in the grid have voltage losses designed in; high voltage transformers are designed to be about 97% efficient with c. 3% of natural energy loss, through both winding losses and core losses, i.e., they are supplied with losses built-in. But we know that in practice and over time, transformers often exceed these losses, for several reasons including weather and the deteriorating condition of the asset.” The new transformer health IEEE standard, PC57.170 /D1.0, due in 2012, provides up-to-date guidance on transformer maintenance and the use of transformer condition assessment indices, which are fundamental in an APM system. But even with healthy equipment, APM technology can identify faults earlier and specify corrective actions. 

If all transformers in a grid were performing at peak design capacity, and then replicate this across multiple power grids globally, these improvements could translate as 100s thousands of kWhs of energy saved, and profound carbon emissions savings. 

And with energy efficiency comes financial efficiency. When buying new equipment, companies can forget to consider all the aspects of production and shipping – the financial and carbon costs, which is where effective investment planning comes into play. “APM and asset investment planning tools help companies understand the financial impact of all investments, plan budgets and evaluate the impact between repairing, upgrading, or buying new equipment,” says IPS Intelligent Process Solutions’ Bizjak.  

Online condition monitoring and more renewables 

Grid performance services technology, like APM, is supported by online condition monitoring. Megger Grid Analytics, formerly Metrycom, supplies grid sensor and analytics solutions for online measurements, condition monitoring and fault location using extensive detection and prediction algorithms for medium and high voltage grid networks.  Smart grid sensor networks bring grid operators further insight, enabling tracking of real-time energy consumption, phase imbalance and power flows across the grid including distributed energy resources. 

While the example involving APM above is concerned with rectifying poor asset condition, the grid is also being challenged by a growing proportion of renewable, and therefore less reliably generated, power. Incumbent grid infrastructure – parts of which is often decades old – was not designed to manage power distribution from these multiple sources in such variable quantities. New technologies are being introduced to the grid, such as Dynamic Line Rating technology, to help “decongest” the grid and accommodate a more “multi-modal” network of power types and input points.  

Megger is a key partner in the transition to a more complex but reliable, digitised energy system. We offer a range of class-leading online condition-based monitoring technology – including partial discharge monitoring for GIS and GIL systems, overhead line and cable monitoring  with Megger Grid Analytics – and we are building on a strategic partnership with IPS Intelligent Process Solutions, a leading provider of APM with a suite of proven tools for  asset health analyses. Megger will grow our APM portfolio to grow the business but, just as importantly, because we believe the switch to renewable energy must accelerate if the power sector is to decarbonise to “net zero” by 2050, where APM and associated technologies are necessary tools to affect this change. 

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