Services & Solutions

Mission to explain

Bram Alkema Sep 23, 2020

The energy transition creates opportunities for DSOs – but it also means greater grid complexity. How can DSOs calculate where and when to invest? And how can they collaborate more easily with stakeholders? “Digital twin” technology could hold the key.

From transport to heating, electricity is driving out fossil fuels and adding new loads to distribution networks. Meanwhile, the expansion of renewable generation means that demand for fast, low-cost grid connections is growing.

New loads in the spotlight

DSOs are under pressure from all directions. First, there is a need to cater for new demand – particularly as pressure grows to decarbonise transport. Electric vehicle charging is an example: ultra-fast charging facilities generate loads of up to 350kW per vehicle. This is comparable to the load of 50-100 extra households, increasing the need for upgraded feeder capacity.

There is also growing demand for power at ports. Ships consume a large amount of energy when they are berthed. Today, most of this is produced by onboard generators using fossil fuels. Demand is rising for Onshore Power Supplies (OPS) which allow ships to take power from the grid instead – eliminating the need to burn bunker fuel and improving air quality.

Heating and cooling are also piling on new demands. Ground and air source heat pumps are growing in popularity. Meanwhile, uptake of air conditioning is rising. Today, this accounts for nearly 10% of global consumption or more than 2,000TWh annually. This figure is expected to treble over the next 30 years.

What does this mean for grid operators?

All of this presents DSOs with new challenges. One of these is ageing assets. In mature economies, a significant proportion of distribution assets are 50 years old or more. Connecting new loads increases thermal stress, causing cables and transformers to age faster.

In parallel with this, there is a need to absorb an increasing amount of renewable generation. This ranges from domestic rooftop installations right up to utility-scale wind and solar. The result is that DSOs increasingly have to manage large and intermittent reverse power flows – which also accelerate the ageing process.

All of this raises questions about how, when and where to upgrade grids. Equally important is the need to communicate with stakeholders. New multi-megawatt demands from sources such as vehicle charging and OPS facilities, for example, are likely to require significant grid reinforcement. DSOs therefore need ways to provide stakeholders with crystal clear information about costs – and timescales.

There is also a need to identify and shar e information about potential quick-win locations – places where customers can easily connect new loads or generation, without the need for immediate grid reinforcement.

Against this background, DSOs need easy access to high-quality network data to keep pace with regulatory requirements. This is becoming increasingly important as DSOs take a more active role in managing grids.

How can all of this be achieved?

Make better decisions with Asset Electrical

Nexans’ Asset Electrical is an innovative strategic asset management solution for DSOs. The solution not only allows you to make complex decisions more easily, but also to communicate and share information with your partners.

Asset Electrical works by creating a digital twin of your network. This incorporates all your grid assets, as well as your renewal, repair and inspection strategies. With Asset Electrical, you can:

  • Simulate any scenario and weigh up all the options with advanced modelling techniques that incorporate Nexans’ unique asset ageing methodology.
  • Strike the right balance between network performance, capital and operating expenditure.
  • Share data easily with multiple stakeholders to justify your business case.

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

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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