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6 ways to improve your power network

  • 21 September 2020

  • EA Technology


Creating a safer, stronger network has to be at the top of the list for all network operators. So how can you ensure that you maximise the value of your assets and deliver for end-users, avoiding the dreaded occurrence of unscheduled shutdowns along the way? Here are six ways to improve your power network – how many are you already using?

1. Improve network visibility and controllability

The better your visibility of how your network is working, the easier it is to understand how much of the network is being used. Greater visibility of local network power flows means that network operators can confidently accommodate more low-carbon technologies, from electric vehicle charging points to distributed generation.

New methods of monitoring use a variety of equipment, monitoring zones, virtual remote terminal units (RTUs), and sequence component transform between high voltage (HV) and low voltage (LV) measurements. This data can be turned into actionable insights to drive decision making.

You can enhance network planning and operating business processes by drawing on information that demonstrates trends in network and equipment performance. For example, low-voltage network monitoring in real time can allow network operators to deploy solutions for cost-effective gains in performance, planning, load management and network charging.

2. Focus on network resilience

Network resilience is vital to avoid unplanned power outages, particularly as we move towards the low-carbon world and the target of Net Zero by 2050. While high voltage networks have been enjoying sophisticated network control for some time, it is now important to bring the same level of control to low-voltage networks to handle unpredictable demand.

Owing to the scale of low voltage networks, finding highly cost-effective solutions is all part of the challenge of managing the increasing stresses on low-voltage networks caused by low-carbon technologies. These stresses include distributed generation (rise in voltage), and an increase in demand and capacity sharing between substations.

3. Invest in forecasting

Better demand and generation forecasting and network planning processes are particularly relevant as renewable energy sources are integrated into power networks. This is due, in part, to the impact of varying weather conditions on solar and wind power, which introduces an element of uncertainty into both the generation of and the demand for electricity.

Electricity forecasting has historically used four key factors: demand, prices, wind generation and solar generation. The Artificial Intelligence (AI) now available means that historical network data and detailed weather data can be used to make predictions. As a result, network operators can maximise capacity and reliability across their electricity distribution networks.

4. Upgrade asset management processes

As a starting point, a complete and up-to-date record of assets is essential – this on its own is a considerable challenge for operators. Any ISO55000 asset management system should employ the Plan, Do, Check, Act cycle to gain continual improvements through the review and evaluation processes, activities, and failures. This will determine whether any changes can be made that will add value.

However, reviewing and evaluating asset management processes, activities and failures generally involves taking reactive measures in response to events. As important as this is to continuous improvement and ISO55000 compliance, this should not be used as a substitute for developing proactive measures to manage assets.

Any review of asset management processes should consider the following: electrical safety rules; maintenance strategies and regimes; equipment specifications; constraint management; condition assessment and, lastly, storage. From here, you can develop asset management strategies to minimise the costs of managing ageing assets, as well as network risk.

5. Maximise the value and capacity of existing assets

Strategic asset management is all about using asset intervention strategies to optimise the existing infrastructure. This involves understanding how healthy an asset is, the probability of failure and its consequences in terms of cost, safety and environmental impact, the risk factor for the asset portfolio, recommended interventions, and investment tracking.

With an ageing power infrastructure, to achieve organisational objectives and bottom-line savings, it is important to design and document whole life cycle asset management systems, strategic asset management plans, policies and procedures that are fully aligned.

6. Optimise cross-sector coordination

Significantly increasing engagement between stakeholders is central to delivering the best whole-system outcome for consumers. Energy systems and their networks are becoming increasingly interlinked, both among themselves and in their impact on the wider economy. As the interaction between heat, electricity and transport become stronger, so too does the value of cooperation between the networks that deliver this energy.

Extracting this value involves improving the collective understanding between distribution network operators (DNOs), transmission operators (TOs), and system operator (SO), as well as licensees from other sectors such as gas, and operators in other countries. This outward-facing approach contributes to maintaining a more flexible, economic, and secure system for all.

Now you have some pointers for improving your power network, why not download our ebook Keeping Your Lights On to explore the challenges and solutions in more depth?