In a recent webinar hosted by the Digital Twin Consortium, Jérôme Fournier, Corporate VP Innovation, Services and Growth at Nexans, and Michel Morvan, Co-Founder and Executive Chairman at Cosmo Tech, discussed how grid operators Groupe E and RTE apply Simulation Digital Twins to optimize operational and cost efficiencies.
Today, grid operators face the challenge of balancing network performance with operational expenditures, risk mitigation, growing demand, and ever more stringent national and international energy policies. These challenges are compounded by the fact that in Western Europe, the vast majority of the grids in operation today are near the end of their lives and require extensive maintenance and replacement investments.
“Cables make up 50 percent of the electrical infrastructure asset value. Sixty percent of today’s blackouts come from cable lines, a part of the grid neglected during the last ten years. Now we’re seeing the importance of cable lines in the total reliability of the electrical distribution,” said Jérôme Fournier, Corporate VP Innovation, Services and Growth at Nexans. A global pure electrification player, the company foresees a 20 percent increase in the demand for safe and decarbonized electricity in the next ten years. “Today, Nexans’ focus is on generating, transmitting, and distributing electricity in the territories and cities to the end user,” continued Jérôme Fournier of Nexans.
Clean electricity is vital to the low-carbon transition. Nexans is at the forefront of the move toward a new era of safer, sustainable, renewable, and decarbonized electrification accessible to everyone. The company is committed to contributing to carbon neutrality by 2030, a target Cosmo Tech technologies are being applied to for Nexans to reach this critical sustainability milestone.
Avoiding blackouts across an increasingly complex grid means that operators must continuously balance short-term investments such as maintenance with long-term renewable energy goals. This balancing act is ever more challenging for operators due to the growing levels of uncertainty and complexity they must operate within.
To overcome the new normal, grid operators leverage next-gen digital twin technologies to model and simulate their grids to optimize investments while ensuring high reliability.
“Optimizing OPEX and CAPEX for grid operators requires making the best maintenance and renewal decisions. To do so, thought requires being able to take into account the varying dynamics of an asset-intensive grid (maintenance policies, degradation, obsolescence, consequences of failure, etc.) with human resources (internal and outsourced, etc.) alongside financial considerations (maintenance costs, CAPEX allocation, etc.),” said Michel Morvan, Co-Founder and Executive Chairman at Cosmo Tech.
Utilizing next-gen digital twins, grid operators can now simulate a multitude of dynamic variables over different time horizons to optimize cost versus risk. “The real question is, ‘what is going to happen?’ This visibility of potential ‘futures,’ what we call 360° simulation digital twins, is the ability to foresee cascading effects and unexpected events,” continued Michel Morvan.
Gaining visibility, anticipating the future, and enabling faster, more agile responses are absolute necessities as grid operators transition to smart grids, renewable energy, and increasing demand.
For grid operators, finding the best course of action to reach defined goals often means taking thousands of variables and siloed data into account. Computerized maintenance management systems (CMMS) or Asset Performance Management Software (APM) are not equipped to provide the in-depth insight required for simulating and optimizing complex scenarios.
It often means answering tough questions like ‘how can we improve investment decisions’ while simultaneously taking into account multiple performance metrics projected for decades into the future.
Groupe E is one of Switzerland’s largest grid operators, serving businesses and nearly half a million people in the cantons of Fribourg, Neuchâtel, Vaud, and Bern. The company’s activities include electricity distribution and generation and retail. “The challenge for our client Groupe E was how to optimize their total cost of ownership without impacting grid reliability. In addition, Groupe E is involved in Switzerland’s 2050 energy strategy to reduce energy consumption, increase energy efficiency and promote renewable energy,” said Jérôme Fournier of Nexans. For Groupe E, this means being able to justify investment plans while maintaining safety and reliability at current levels.
To do so meant modeling 300,000 assets and running simulations of 5 million operations planned per scenario during an extended period, typically between 50 to 100 years. Leveraging Nexans’ Asset Electrical solution powered by Cosmo Tech Simulation Digital Twin platform, Groupe E simulated asset aging and policies, project rollout, scheduling, and conflict management with the overall objective of minimizing TOTEX.
“For Groupe E, it meant being able to make the best maintenance and renewal decisions while taking into account not only the physical assets but also important variables such as the availability of internal and outsourced personnel, maintenance and work policies, geographic location, and extension projects,” said Michel Morvan of Cosmo Tech.
Of the many benefits of Asset Electrical, grid operators like Groupe E can test hypotheses and simulate unlimited strategies decades into the future or for short- term plans. “Once you have a simulation digital twin, you can use it to align different teams and have a unified view of the system,” continued Michel Morvan. In addition, the Asset Electrical dashboards make it easy to explore scenarios and share results across stakeholders.
“The return on investment of Asset Electrical for Groupe E is three to four times the cost of the solution. Furthermore, as stated by Aurelien Lair of Groupe E, it was the first time they could plan network equipment renewal with an optimized risk mitigation approach across all network levels,” said Jérôme Fournier of Nexans. The Groupe E Project was completed in less than six months, including customization to the operator’s precise requirements.
“The benefits for grid operators is a potential 10 percent gain in operational efficiency, 10 percent OPEX and CAPEX savings at ISO performance levels, a 20 percent reduction in operational conflict, and strategic and operational alignment,” said Michel Morvan of Cosmo Tech.
One of the many benefits of Simulation Digital Twins is that it can consider upcoming projects like a network extension or even major long-term ones such as smart meter deployment. In addition, when executing a scenario, the solution simulates the effect of time on the various grid assets using aging and degradation models. Accordingly, the evolving asset condition and operational constraints constantly recalculate the need for extra maintenance or replacement. Cable, transformers, switchgear, and structural equipment such as poles and towers are all included.
When the customer requires it, Nexans and Cosmo Tech ensure compliance of the Asset Electrical solution with Ofgem’s CNAIM methodology for evaluating grid risk. For example, Nexans and Cosmo Tech integrated the grid operator’s asset performance data for the Groupe E project.
In addition, they worked with Groupe E to aggregate and format data across the company, including network inventory, maintenance, engineering, human resources, and finance.
During the webinar, Michel Morvan discussed how the French electric transmission utility, Réseau de Transport d’Electricité (RTE), has relied on Cosmo Tech’s simulation digital twin solution to justify its business plan to the French Energy Regulatory Commission (CRE). Sharing objective data showing that increasing the maintenance budget leads to substantial savings on the overall budget in the medium term, the regulator granted RTE a 15 percent budget increase for asset management. Furthermore, in its public report, the CRE requested RTE apply the same method, based on Cosmo Tech, to all its policies for the renewal of assets.
The French company must ensure the maintenance and renewal of its aging network of 105,000 kilometers of high- and extra-high voltage lines and 200,000 transmission towers. The problem is heightened by the fact that RTE must also design its infrastructure to be compatible with the potential evolution of the energy landscape while ensuring the robustness of its network in light of increasing uncertainties.
“A strategic partner since 2015, RTE has integrated nearly one million asset components in the digital twin, which could reach 30 million planned operations per scenario during time spans of 30 to 100 years, thus demonstrating the industrial scalability of our solutions,” ended Michel Morvan.
The webinar closed with a series of participant questions on data quality, artificial intelligence, cyber security, and more.
Make sure to watch the entire webinar to learn more about how grid operators leverage Asset Electrical.
“In my opinion, one of the major advantages of Asset Electrical is that we can factor external constraints as well as internal ones. For the first time, it was possible for us to plan network equipment renewal with an optimized risk mitigation approach across all network levels.”