Up until recently, the term electric utility modernization might have seemed like an oxymoron, but as Bob Dylan once said, the times they are a changin’! Although all utilities are in the midst of an evolving landscape, electric utilities are right at the center of this evolution. According to this article, there are three primary strategies that electric utilities are focused on as they attempt to proactively navigate this changing landscape.
Top Electric Utility Modernization Goals
The first is IT/OT convergence, which basically refers to the integration of, and information sharing between, backend functions and field based devices. The implication of this on emergency restoration is that it would enable data from the field to be converted into actionable information, which would help utilities make smarter, faster outage restoration decisions and reduce the duration of outages.
The second important strategy that is dominating the boardroom is compliance with the latest North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) Critical Infrastructure Protection (CIP) standards (NERC CIP v. 6). The crux of CIP v. 6 is that utilities are required to identify critical assets, and then to regularly perform risk analyses on them. This should benefit emergency preparedness, because critical assets like substations will be hardened, which in theory should improve their reliability and henceforth reduce outage frequency.
The final critical strategy is moving utility networks away from outdated analog and TDM circuit technologies, especially at the substation level. Electric utilities have been slow to adopt newer technologies, but since many legacy technologies are no longer being supported by the manufacturers, their hands are being forced. Read the article linked above for the technical reasons this is desirable, but in layman’s terms, the new technologies are more secure and less prone to failure which in turn should improve reliability.
Electric utility modernization…who would’ve thunk it?