The global power industry is undergoing rapid transformational changes. Not surprisingly, the most pressing of these changes is the urgent need to shift away from traditional, fossil fuel-powered plants toward more sustainable energy sources.
Across the globe, power companies are also battling rising capital budget constraints as well as the need to train a new generation of employees to ensure reliable and flexible operations. Furthermore, power companies must manage these challenges all while maximising the output of their fleets to keep up with growing demands for electrification.
The good news is that these mounting pressures are inspiring innovation throughout the industry. Leading companies are turning to new digital technologies that are working together in collaborative cloud environments to pioneer more agile, resilient and sustainable electric grids. To overcome the industry’s biggest obstacles, power producers are adopting new digital solutions to address four key strategic objectives.
The first goal is to build an industrial information infrastructure. Power producers are fostering a data-driven decision-making culture by integrating and contextualising all sources of engineering and operations data into a single platform, which improves data security, availability and accessibility.
Energy consulting firm ZGlobal and Silicon Valley Clean Energy in California, USA, adopted AVEVA Data Hub and turned their business ecosystem into a data-sharing community. The software is natively built on Microsoft Azure and uses on-premises data from AVEVA PI System. The group’s new cloud-based data-sharing solution increases security and simplifies the process of sharing data sets with multiple parties. The platform has improved data transparency, collaboration and trust among multiple organisations, while saving stakeholders thousands of dollars.
In addition, power producers are striving to improve the efficiency of capital expenditures. With advanced engineering and simulation tools, engineers can collaborate on design in real time, which promotes efficiency, reduces errors and shortens engineering cycles so that power producers can complete new capital projects faster and with fewer risks and budget overruns.
US-based power company Commonwealth Fusion Systems (CFS) is working to commercialise fusion energy to deliver clean, limitless power to the world. CFS uses AVEVA Unified Engineering in the cloud to enhance the efficiency and collaboration of its engineering and design teams, which work remotely.
Using software-as-a-service-based AVEVA Unified Engineering allows CFS to share vital 1D, 2D and 3D engineering data and enables teams to design and build simultaneously. The solution allows geographically dispersed teams to develop and maintain the detailed definitions of all the key engineering items involved in the design and build phases of capital project execution. With the help of AVEVA’s portfolio of industrial solutions, CFS’s engineering processes are more flexible and collaborative.
Another strategic objective is to build agility and resilience. To extract maximum value from their existing fleets, power producers are increasingly adopting AI-enriched analytics, process optimisation solutions and other digital technologies. This empowers them to improve process efficiency without needing to extensively replace hardware or software. When businesses can do more with less, they simultaneously increase their profit margin and decrease their carbon footprint.
Asset management and process control solutions are helping power producers create more proactive maintenance practices to achieve the resilience and agility they need to mitigate service and supply disruptions.
Nuclear power plants, for example, face constant price pressure from different sectors like natural gas and renewable energy, while prioritising safety for the community and workers. Exelon Corporation, one of the US’s largest nuclear operators, used AVEVA’s PI System to transform its diagnostic process, so engineers and operators have a shared set of data to use for crucial decisions. By switching from time-based to condition-based maintenance, Exelon has seen a 20 per cent reduction in operating expenses, while improving its fleet agility and resilience.
Power producers are also aiming to upskill, reskill, and empower workers. Whether the trigger is an aging workforce or turnover in a competitive labour market, reducing new operators’ time-to-competency has become a major factor in sustaining productivity. Power companies realise that enabling digital connectivity between people and their work environment is key to workforce empowerment, retention, and to achieving a continuous improvement cycle. The addition of cloud-based solutions leads to further gains in connectivity, and more importantly, higher business value.
Enel Green Power leveraged the AVEVA PI System and AVEVA Predictive Analytics to develop an artificial intelligence-enabled, real-time monitoring and diagnostics capabilities for an 18-megawatt geothermal plant. This has enabled Enel to increase operational efficacy and reduce costs through early detection of critical events, while enhancing operational autonomy and ease of use through active key performance indicator tracking and proactive decision-making.
Learn more about AVEVA's solutions for power and utilities.
Douglas Nunez is global power industry expert at AVEVA
This article was originally published in the Autumn 2023 issue of Technology Record. To get future issues delivered directly to your inbox, sign up for a free subscription