Smart solutions to tackle energy losses for utilities

The pressure to improve energy efficiency is constant and intense, particularly for electric utilities since changes to power production, and distribution can have a cascading effect that influences the energy efficiency efforts of both utilities and consumers.

Taru Madangombe
Image credit: Schneider Electric

The pressure to improve energy efficiency is constant and intense, particularly for electric utilities since changes to power production, and distribution can have a cascading effect that influences the energy efficiency efforts of both utilities and consumers.

In this quest for improvements, it is easy to lose sight of why you should want more energy efficient operations. The opportunity to cut costs is always a motivator for change, and for utilities, the rewards for reducing network losses are immense as annual electricity transmission and distribution (T&D) losses are substantial.

At the end of the 2016/2017 fiscal year, Eskom reported an average of 8.85% in total energy losses with a significant deterioration on distribution losses from 6.43% in March 2016 to 7.55% in 2017.

Eskom, which supplies about 95% of South Africa’s electrical energy, is planning on reducing these losses by implementing an early warning system, regular and targeted meter audits through automating analysis on their networks.

Advanced distribution management systems (ADMS) is a solution that can be implemented to estimate and minimise losses, manage peak demand and automated fault location, isolation and service restoration.

“Reducing electricity network losses requires smart strategies that improve active and passive energy efficiency. By planning, measuring and improving transmission and distribution network efficiency and installing digital technology that is more accurate and connected, electric utilities take a big step towards increasing energy efficiency and reliability while reducing operating costs,” says Schneider Electric’s Energy BU vice president for Southern Africa, Taru Madangombe.

“ADMS is Schneider Electric’s EcoStruxure solution that provides electric utilities with leading critical grid management capabilities to improve outage response, optimise evolving grid operation and manage distributed energy resources (DER) impacts. It simulates the impact on the reliability of supply, losses and voltage management with the use of algorithms that calculate optimum configurations based on data that comes from sensors, smart meters and switch operations,” he says.

DERs, which place a strain on a utilities’ ability to maintain their contractually agreed upon voltage levels, are being injected into the grid and cause the voltage to increase in one section of the network while it decreases in another.

Madangombe continues, “Traditional voltage control tools are no longer adequate for managing these demands and fluctuations, so utilities are deploying new solutions and sensors to finely tune the voltage control infrastructure to minimise technical losses and reduce costs. There are smart sensors, virtual sensors and remote terminal units (RTUs) to aid in this process.

A monitoring system where the Low Voltage (LV) networks have three phases and a neutral wire can collect data such as substations and feeders’ daily load, voltage and temperature profiles to provide a detailed analysis of MV/LV level performance data. This type of LV monitoring system can accommodate more DER since it addresses problems such as load imbalance and works to decrease energy loss, which can improve substations’ output and reduce joules losses in cables.

Reducing losses is a prime concern for utilities and there are many strategies for going about this, including the addition of smart energy meters and sensors that identify the source of losses and quantify them so that network operators can start energy efficiency improvements.

EcoStruxure ADMS, an industry benchmark used by over 78 utility companies that serve over 100 million customers around the world, represents the evolution of control room technology by merging the Distribution Management System (DMS), Outage Management System (OMS) and Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) system into one comprehensive network management solution.


 

 

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