You may or may not have heard the term “digitalization,” but you probably already know what it means.
For example, you might have a smart thermostat. It learns exactly how you use energy and optimizes the temperature for amazing energy savings. You could do something similar on your own, but you’d have to run back-and-forth from your thermostat 24 hours per day.
Well, the same concept could be more deeply applied to electric companies to achieve greater efficiency and reliability.
The Alliance to Save Energy interviewed Bryan Freihauff of Hitachi ABB Power Grids, a company that exists to create a future with sustainable energy, to learn what advances could be made.
Here’s some of the highlights of what they discussed:
1. An Example of How Digitalization Can Increase Efficiency
Here’s how things should work:
A supervisor gets an email about a potential power outage on the grid. An operations worker inspects the issue via a 3D model before he even goes to the switchyard to fix the problem. When he gets there, he’s already prepared to do the fix and uses a mobile device to create a work request.
A maintenance worker prepares to do the fix as stated by the work request using electronic instructions. The affected area in the grid then either never actually loses power, or loses it for a much shorter time than it would have in the past.
See how seamless and easy that it is?
But that’s not the way most power companies work!
Rather, the information is “siloed” as they say. In other words, different departments have access to different parts of the information. And not everyone who needs it can get it quickly.
Today, the maintenance worker may have to make all sorts of requests to get the information from the operator. Fixing a simple problem can lead to the utter chaos of getting the right info from the right parties at the right time.
And of course, that causes you all sorts of efficiency problems!
2. Why Don’t More Power Companies Use Digitalization?
At this point, the biggest problem lies in proving to power companies that digitalization gives them a good return on their investment.
Not many companies have the capability to implement the latest digitalization technology and show power companies exactly how that will improve their processes and reduce their costs.
The grid is actually quite complex at the moment. And it’s getting even more complex every second.
Few service providers have the experience with power grids and the software necessary to make digitalization a reality for power companies.
And since there’s so few companies who can do that successfully, you don’t see widespread change.
It also means digitalization isn’t necessarily at the forefront of the awareness of electric companies.
So while some do it, it’s not happening at the scale needed to create a sustainable future.
The key to creating change lies in convincing Federal policymakers and energy company executives that digitalization is possible and that doing so creates a return on investment.
Unfortunately, that’s out of your hands. But, companies like Hitachi ABB Power Grids are doing everything in their power to make this a common reality by 2030.