An Asset Management Approach to Congestion Mitigation

The power industry has faced fundamental changes in recent years–regulatory changes, new standards for transmission open access, grid congestion, aging infrastructure and an uncertain global economy. That transformation is far from over.

Major capital investments were made 20 to 30 years ago. Now it’s time to replace our aging infrastructure to prevent potential failures and outages that could jeopardize reliability and security of power delivery. Under tight budgets, investment decisions typically are made based on optimal use of existing assets without jeopardizing the life of the equipment.

What the industry needs now are new methodologies and tools that can help achieve maximum performance and that are balanced against financial constraints, customer objectives and cost/benefit scenarios. Assets should be managed from both business and technical perspectives, linking a utility’s operational objectives with investor expectations, customer expectations, regulatory requirements, capital constraints and other technical and business goals.

Asset management is an integrated, systemic methodology that utilizes quantified analysis and examination of the full life cycle of each infrastructure component and system from both business and technical perspectives. This approach enables asset owners to manage assets comprehensively by balancing performance, costs and risks against financial constraints, investor expectations, customer service objectives and cost/benefit scenarios to achieve the greatest possible return on investment.

In practice, this approach begins with developing an in-depth understanding of the business goals and the asset base. Next, alternatives are devised and ranked. Finally, an implementation plan is developed that achieves maximum benefits from existing infrastructure components and the system.

For example, one of the key issues in facing the U.S. power system is how to mitigate transmission bottlenecks that occur in the East and West. Effective investments are necessary to assure better transmission system operation. The comprehensive and quantitative asset management approach, spanning from the component to the system level, should ensure optimal technical and investment decisions in mitigating congestion.

In the congested area, a comprehensive study of overall system aspects is required. This study includes:

  • A quantification of the magnitude and extent of the congestion, and the conditions under which congestion occurs;
  • Assessments of the reliability, performance, and stability of the area when congestion occurs;
  • Power loss aspects;
  • Congestion pricing aspects;
  • Regulatory, safety and environmental aspects;
  • Requirements to assure power quality and, consequently, customer satisfaction, etc.

Congestion impacts cannot be properly analyzed without evaluating the impacts on the component level. For example, for a transmission line, the following issues should be addressed:

  • Assessment of asset condition, including a review of the transmission line’s design criteria, weather information, line loading levels, measurements of conductor sag as a function of the load, tower construction and associated forces, line losses, etc.;
  • Possibilities to extend the service life of the transmission assets (considering congestion effects);
  • Possibilities to enhance performance (reliability, availability, etc.) by improving maintenance practices.

As this information becomes available, alternatives to mitigate congestion–including uprating, upgrading, installation of new devices and replacing existing equipment with new infrastructure capable of handling higher loads–could be evaluated and quantified from both financial and technical aspects, allowing transmission asset owners to make better-informed decisions.

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Damir Novosel is senior vice president and general manager of KEMA’s T&D consulting services. He has more than 20 years engineering and business experience in electrical power engineering and process automation. An IEEE Fellow, Novosel is currently serving as an adjunct professor at North Carolina State University. He earned his Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from Mississippi State University, his M.S. in Electrical Engineering from the University of Zagreb, Croatia, and his B.S. in Electrical Engineering from the University of Tuzla, Bosnia and Herzegovina.

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