Electricity grids are some of the most complex industrial systems on Earth. Lines, substations, transformers, maintenance crews, different energy generation sources, hour-by-hour shifts in demand, and weather that can make or break a grid fast. Little wonder, then, that electricity TSOs and DSOs alike are turning to Simulation Digital Twins to help manage their complexity, and build more robust and resilient grid systems.
In a recent webinar co-hosted by Cosmo Tech, Nexans, and Enea Consulting, electricity grid owners, operators, and grid asset managers heard utility industry experts explain just how this transformational technology can help electricity grids be more robust, more resilient to disruptions, and improve their asset management practices to extract more value from every investment.
Here are three ways electricity grids can benefit from Simulation Digital Twins.
A Simulation Digital Twin offers electricity grid asset managers the opportunity to optimize their maintenance operations by testing the impact of preventative, conditional, corrective, and replacement maintenance operations before any action is taken. By simulating different scenarios, asset managers can determine the impacts of any maintenance action – or a set of actions in a wider asset management strategy – on the life and health of an asset, a class of assets, or the grid as a whole.
Electricity grid assets such as towers, lines, and substations represent significant investments for any grid operator. By optimizing maintenance of those assets, grid operators can improve the health and extend the useful life of their assets to generate a maximized return on their investment. As Enea Consulting’s David Mercereau notes, “A lot of power networks in developed countries were built in the first half of the 20th century. That means a large proportion of assets are approaching the end of their expected physical life.” By extending the useful life of these assets through optimized maintenance actions, grid operators buy themselves more time to replace these aging assets and extract greater value from the existing grid.
Forecasting the performance of assets under real-world conditions helps asset managers and grid operators to understand where they need to invest in their network, and budget for the CAPEX costs of doing so. In addition, forecasts of asset performance aid in budgeting OPEX costs, including maintenance. However, these forecasts are only useful if they are accurate and it’s here that Simulation Digital Twins offer true business value.
“If you are able to forecast the performance of your assets, you can invest in new or replacement assets with greater precision – and you can maintain them better,” says Nexans Asset Management Professional Bram Alkema. Simulation Digital Twins allow asset managers to accurately forecast when assets will fail and what maintenance actions can be implemented to avoid or prolong that failure. This makes for more timely investments in replacement assets and the realization of significant value for a small investment of time and effort. As Enea’s Mercereau adds, “From what we’ve seen, asset management is one of the areas where the highest gains can be achieved with the least effort.”
Utility asset managers are challenged to deliver results in the short-term while building long-term thinking into an organization with planning that mirrors the real world. To power this planning, asset managers need technologies that can support a systemic approach that accounts for infrastructure, constraints, processes, human resources, and that offers short and long-term visibility of the impacts of asset management decisions.
This systemic approach means that asset management is truly at the heart of electrical grid operations. It adds value in day-to-day operations as well as reducing risk and increasing resilience in strategic terms, too. With a Simulation Digital Twin it is possible to adopt optimized tactical plans while never losing sight of performance at a strategic level, too. This systemic approach results in truly integrated planning that goes beyond silos and vertical organizations and facilitates transversal planning with internal and external stakeholders alike.
“Cosmo Tech’s Simulation Digital Twins consider 100% of the utilities’ assets, including their interactions and sub-components, plus all the holistic business processes, with a highly customizable timestep in the simulation path,” explains Maxime Le Pendeven, a simulation software specialist from Cosmo Tech. “It is the only solution on the market that allows utilities to simulate unlimited ‘what-if’ scenarios and ‘how-to’ optimizations with such a precise granularity – including operational, tactical and strategic decisions.”
With a Simulation Digital Twin asset managers have the chance to construct, simulate, and compare an unlimited number of future scenarios and discover the impact of any choice. Whether an operational decision on the size and skillset of a maintenance team, a tactical decision in the case of a blackout, or a strategic investment plan for the future shape of the grid, a Simulation Digital Twin enables asset managers to have confidence in their integrated planning approach.
Click here to watch the webinar replay with experts from Cosmo Tech, Nexans, and Enea Consulting discussing the enormous value that a Simulation Digital Twin can deliver to electricity grid operators and asset managers.