by Michael Loiacono, Siemens
What is the current temperature in New York City? The Weather Channel says 70 degrees. Your iPhone app says 66 degrees. Your friend says it is 71 degrees. The sign outside the bank says it is 73 degrees. Which one is the truth?
There is only one actual temperature but many sources of temperature data, which may differ. Differences in temperature readings might not have a big impact on the decisions you make that day. At worst, you might not wear a jacket when you should have. But for those who plan and operate power transmission grids, gathering accurate data is paramount. There is only one physical power grid, but a power transmission company could have dozens of people, departments and software systems that maintain their own models. Why is this a problem? This data is used to perform mission-critical studies and make decisions about the real-time operation and long-term planning of the grid. Inconsistencies in the input data can yield serious consequences that affect grid reliability. It also causes much wasted labor and time to attempt to correct, validate and synchronize inconsistent data with many of the errors that are going unrecognized until there is a major problem or outage.
One Source of Truth
With emerging regulations, increased focus on grid reliability, a growing amount of grid data and tightening pressure on cost control, the power transmission industry is at a tipping point to find a solution for more consistent management of grid models and data.
Variations of the same data are causing process inefficiencies and data inconsistencies that could result in incorrect decisions with negative impacts on reliable and economic grid operation and planning, according to a recent Electrical Power Research Institute (EPRI) report. The solution is to deploy a tool that can act as the single source of truth for all grid data, spanning the operations, planning, protection and market domains of utilities. Instead of multiple systems that store their own inconsistent representations of the same physical data, the data would be stored only in one central network model management (NMM) system. The NMM then automatically would coordinate the exchange, use and modification of that data across multiple users (such as system operators and planners) and systems (such as planning tools and energy management systems). This is the future of the grid.
The grid planners’ and operators’ jobs are simplified significantly (see figure). On each representation, we see the data sources used within transmission operations and planning, which could include: line constants/ratings; outage schedules; load and generation forecast data; contingency definitions; as-built diagrams; GIS data; future plans; historical information; measurements; and system models. This data is consumed, and in some cases modified by, stakeholders across operations and planning departments. These stakeholders could be internal to the transmission system operator (TSO) or could be external (for example, other TSOs, independent system operators (ISOs) and regional transmission organizations, etc.). The stakeholders maintain the base case, create study cases, perform system studies, plan system changes, validate models, plus perform other key grid planning and operations functions. When the data is represented in one common standards-based format and channeled through a single repository, it reduces operational costs and improves reliability.
Helping Blaze the Trail
In response to these industry needs from TSOs and ISOs, EPRI joined utilities and vendors to define the requirements for an NMM tool. The findings were issued in a report, “Network Model Manager Technical Market Requirements: The Transmission Perspective,” released by EPRI in September. In addition to defining requirements, the report identifies challenges, gauges the gap between current and required readiness of standards and products, and provides a tactical guide to help TSOs and ISOs achieve a centralized NMM vision within their own organizations. The report also outlines how the Common Information Model standard (CIM IEC 61970) provides the basis for a coordinated, industrywide NMM strategy.
Paving the Pathway to Success
The recent EPRI initiative is a step, but the industry needs action now. As stewards of the power transmission industry, vendors and transmission companies must come together to progress things. Vendors must be able to produce software solutions to these industry problems, and utility decision-makers must acknowledge the existence and urgency of these problems. Steps must be taken now to solve them before another major grid event such as a blackout. A consolidated approach to NMM is a way to address these challenges and provide a vital component to grid planning and reliable power grid operation.
Integrated NMM software solutions simplify the complicated, inefficient and error-prone process of transmission grid planning and operation, providing one source of truth. Solutions for consolidated NMM are becoming increasingly available, and transmission companies that adopt these solutions can reduce modeling errors and ensure models match reality, ensuring a more reliable, accurate system. NMM systems also automate and increase the number of valid contingency definitions and study cases, enabling a more secure system.
The software helps eliminate wasted labor and time to correct, validate and synchronize inconsistencies in model data, reducing costs and increasing the rate at which models can be loaded. And by reducing the elapsed time required to perform or update studies, utilities can boost productivity and allow engineers to be more focused. NMMs also can streamline modeling processes and facilitate automation that drives operational efficiency. And by facilitating integration across multiple systems, utilities can become less dependent on proprietary or vendor-specific data formats by adopting industry standards (e.g., CIM). Finally, the software can reduce the likelihood of serious operating or planning errors from bad models, improving reliability and avoiding regulatory penalties.
Emerging regulations, an increasing focus on grid reliability, a growing amount of grid data, and tightening pressure on cost control are forcing power transmission companies to a tipping point in how they manage all of the data and models that go into transmission grid planning and operation. With the right software tools, power transmission planners and operators can reduce costs, achieve productivity gains, avoid inconsistencies in data and deliver more reliable power to customers.
Michael Loiacono is the product manager for Siemens PTI’s portfolio of NMM solutions. He has a doctorate in electrical engineering from Rutgers University, completed the Executive Program in Marketing Strategy at Cornell University Johnson Graduate School of Management, and completed the Executive Certificate Program at UNC Chapel Hill Kenan-Flagler Business School.
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