Services & Solutions

Winning the War on Waste

Bram Alkema Dec 1, 2020

Up to 15% of the electricity that enters distribution networks never reaches its destination. Could “digital twin” technology help to reduce the losses?

Electricity grids are the arteries of the energy system. But no grid is 100% efficient. In Europe, grids lose about 180TWh each year – three times more power than is generated by offshore wind.

The majority of losses occur in distribution systems. Some of these are non-technical losses caused by human factors, such as theft, metering inaccuracies and accounting errors. But in most grids, technical losses predominate – losses caused by the physics of distribution. 

Variable losses account for about three-quarters of the power that goes missing. These are the result of the heating effect of electricity as it flows along overhead lines and underground cables, as well as through apparatus. The higher the current, the greater the loss.

Fixed losses account for the rest. These result from the need to energise assets such as transformers and conductors. Fixed losses are not current-dependent – they are always there.

Why might losses rise?

Distribution losses are a fact of life. But rising demand and the shift to low-carbon consumer technologies have the potential to amplify losses. First, there is the rapid rise of electric vehicles (EVs). These require charging infrastructure at scale, leading to increased power demand.

Second, growing uptake of electric heating is adding to the burden on distribution grids. Ground and air-source heat pumps have a significant power requirement. They also create sharp demand peaks.

Third, distribution networks must now handle intermittent flows from distributed generation, such as small-scale solar and wind. This can lead to increased network flows.

These new loads and flows add to stress on distribution systems – not only increasing losses, but also accelerating the ageing of cables and transformers. 

How can DSOs balance the cost of losses with the cost of upgrades for different scenarios stretching far into the future?

Tackle losses with Asset Electrical

Asset Electrical is Nexans’ strategic asset management solution for DSOs. It works by creating a digital twin of your network – an innovative computer model that includes all your grid assets, as well as your renewal, repair and inspection strategies.

The beauty of Asset Electrical is that it allows you to model complex power loss scenarios, so you can target your investments to yield the greatest loss reductions at the lowest capital cost.

  • Measure: Asset Electrical can calculate a KPI related to power losses. This indicator is determined by grid conditions and grid geometry at a given time.
  • Evaluate: you can test investment projects and maintenance policies and their impact on the power loss KPI. Asset Electrical can capture the evolution of asset geometry and topology, including factors such as network extensions and reconstruction. It also takes into account the evolution of asset condition along with ageing and deterioration.
  • Decide: Asset Electrical gives you the insights you need to strike the optimum balance between overall investment and the cost of power losses.

With savings of more than 10% of total expenditure and an increased return on assets of over 20%, Asset Electrical is designed to help you get the most out of your network – now and for years to come.

About the author

Bram Alkema

Bram ALKEMA joined Nexans as the business developer for Asset Management Solutions.
Bram is a Leading Asset Management Professional for the Development, Implementation, Deployment and Application of (Asset) Management Systems, Decision Making Processes and Investment Portfolio Management compliant with ISO 55001. He has 25+ years’ experience as senior manager of operational, tactical and strategical departments at energy utilities in the Netherlands.

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