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Reflections from EuroDoble: Insights from Simon Sutton – Part 2

By in General | February 8, 2018

What is the power industry’s ultimate goal? One potential answer would be to ensure the consistent and reliable flow of electricity. However, we know this is easier said than done. Today’s utilities are operating with fewer resources, squeezed budgets and increasing pressure to meet critical metrics. Shifting market conditions and technical challenges such as cybersecurity and toughening regulations simply make things more complicated.

The key to handling these competing objectives, and keeping pace with rapid industry change, is asset management. It’s difficult to meet the challenges of the future grid without a strong understanding of the existing infrastructure.

Simon Sutton, Doble’s EMEA Technical Solutions Director, weighs in on the state of the industry and the key takeaways from EuroDoble, our recent customer conference based in Europe.


2017 EuroDoble Colloquium

Which trends or issues are most top of mind for power engineers today?

The number one priority for all power engineers should be keeping the lights on. The challenge today is to do it cheaper, faster and with less resources, all while the industry is going through several changes, including the rise of renewables, digitization and evolution of distribution system operators.

Understanding the condition and performance of existing assets is key to enabling these changes without the need for massive investment in new infrastructure. The EuroDoble conference addressed this issue for attendees with sessions focused on on-line and off-line diagnostics, which underpin asset management programs and the generation of asset health indices. The conference also addressed the fundamentals of how such a program of testing and monitoring should be constructed to deliver the maximum benefit for utilities. Monitoring everything is not the answer!

This was your first EuroDoble conference. What did you find most interesting about the event?

I thoroughly enjoyed my first EuroDoble experience. I thought the quality of the presentations was fantastic and the program had been well organized. It was refreshing to attend a conference without any overtly commercial presentations, which is a reflection on the conference’s diligence in selecting the speakers.

At the conference, all the speakers shared interesting and actionable insights. The asset management focus to the event, which addressed practical issues of the existing asset base, was well-received by the audience – attendees were engaged and there was a lot of interesting discussion following each presentation. Having a background in condition monitoring myself, it was pleasing to see practical examples of where monitoring has been applied and has had a positive business impact.

Lastly, I was also pleasantly surprised by the open session on the final day. I have never been to an event where the delegates could talk openly about the issues and failures on top of their minds, without any vendors in the room. The learning and information sharing on that final morning of the conference was fantastic to see.

Are there any drastic differences between the way that Europe and North America address power issues?

There aren’t any drastic differences, rather slight variations. For example, free-breathing versus sealed transformers, or dry versus wet medium voltage cables. The liberalization of the European electricity market in the 1990s led to outsourcing, down-sizing and more market participants, and drove construction of high voltage direct current (HVDC) subsea cable interconnectors between countries to facilitate energy trading. The latter has improved security of supply and kept energy costs down for consumers. Decarbonization of the economy has also led to large-scale wind and solar production, which is now cost competitive with conventional generation.

Where do you see the industry heading in five to ten years?

If I look back at the past ten years, very few people would have predicted many of the changes we see manifesting around us today, including renewables, digitization and distribution system operators, as well as powerful IT, the rise of mobile technology, increased connectivity, smart meters and impacts of climate change. What I am confident about is that the “old” assets will still be there, probably working harder, but their condition better understood. Increased digitization, including monitoring, and intelligent systems automating many more actions will be needed to keep the lights on. Although these systems will help in the future, there is the risk of cyber-attack, and I was pleased to see that for the first time EuroDoble had a session dedicated to this topic.

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Doble Engineering Company

Doble Engineering Company