Hydro-Québec’s Distribution Technology Roadmap

By Georges Simard and Denis Chartrand, Hydro-Quàƒ©bec

Hydro-Quàƒ©bec is no different from other utility companies in that they face the challenges of an aging workforce, an aging network, new technologies, increased customer’s requirements, etc. Where Hydro-Quàƒ©bec Distribution differs from some other companies is in the fact that they’ve developed a detailed and regimented plan to deal with these and other challenges.

In August 2002 Hydro-Quàƒ©bec Distribution produced an internal study on the future of distribution network automation. The report presented an extensive study on the reliability improvements that remote control of feeder equipment could bring to customers. It was used to justify the distribution network remote control program authorized in July 2005 by “la Ràƒ©gie de l’àƒâ€°nergie,” the regulatory body of the province of Quàƒ©bec. The program called for the remote control of 3,750 medium-voltage load break switches and breakers over a six-year period at a cost of more than $150 million. This internal report also stated that the distribution network of the future must become more intelligent by integrating the network, equipment and product monitoring. The distribution remote control program is the cornerstone of the intelligent network to come at Hydro-Quàƒ©bec Distribution.

Developing the Roadmap

Hydro-Quàƒ©bec Distribution participated in a cooperative research project which resulted in the CEATI roadmap. This document identified some 150 technologies that will impact the distribution network of the future. It is an extensive report based on a vast consultation of distribution experts all over North America. One of the conclusions is that the distribution network must become more intelligent, confirming the Hydro-Quàƒ©bec Distribution internal study. The CEATI roadmap takes a broader view and includes customer’s technologies that need to be developed as well as more general systems and applications.

Another important document that influenced Hydro-Quàƒ©bec Distribution was the EPRI ADA [advanced distribution automation] report. Once again, the report supported the same direction expressed two years earlier in the internal Hydro-Quàƒ©bec report on distribution automation. The EPRI report is focused on distribution automation and develops an extensive view of the intelligent network including the development of new equipment. It also emphasizes the integration of a telecommunication infrastructure into the distribution network.

Hydro-Quàƒ©bec Distribution, supported by the external benchmark reports, believes the intelligent network is a must and that distribution network remote control is the first step to reach this objective. Therefore, distribution automation is a major part of the Hydro-Quàƒ©bec Distribution roadmap.

One must realize that the definition of a roadmap may be different from one distribution company to another. For Hydro-Quàƒ©bec Distribution, a roadmap must be simple to understand, able to evolve dynamically in time, and, most important, it must involve every department of the business process such as planning, construction, operation, maintenance, and so on.

Sorting Technologies

A team of experts extracted from the roadmaps the technologies usable in Hydro-Quàƒ©bec Distribution’s context and then classified these technologies. Some of these were equipment (such as intelligent meters and broadband over powerline), others were software or applications (such as fault location system and automatic meter reading), and finally some were broader activities or systems (like an asset management system). Those categories address three basic questions:

1. Business needs: Why should we implement the technologies? The answer to this question should be linked closely to the distribution company’s own objectives based on its business processes such as energy efficiency, reliability and power quality. This will personalise the roadmap for each utility as each may focus on different activities based on the business goals of each distribution company.

2. Applications: How do we fulfill the goals of each business need? This question should address projects that will help fulfill the previously stated activities.

3. Data and technologies: What technologies should we use? Data needed should be selected to give the applications the required information. The answer to this question should state the technologies needed to feed the functionalities and systems defined in the previous category.

Figure 1 (previous page) is a representation of the flow of information on an automated distribution network, including the different categories. Attention should be given to avoid installing equipment on the network that can overload data management due to the huge amount of data coming from distribution sensors. Even if information is flowing from the technologies to the business needs, the “flow of decision” must be done starting from the business needs to the technologies. Each utility must first determine its goals or business needs before selecting the applications and the technologies.

Click here to enlarge image


Applying the Roadmap to the DA Program

For the distribution automation project, Figure 2 summarizes the result of the analysis done up to now. Of course, a progression in time of all the technologies and applications are needed and is part of the roadmap. The proposed progression for distribution automation is based on these principles:

  • The distribution network evolution must start from the actual network and gradually move toward an intelligent grid.
  • The remote control infrastructure shall be used to gather network information. This information is needed to add intelligence to the network to increase its performance.
  • The multiple tasks possibilities of modern digital equipment (smart meters, digital relays, etc.) should be integrated to reduce cost.
  • Distribution network evolution shall consider the growing interconnection of distributed energy resources.
  • The telecommunication structure of the distribution network should evolve toward a compatible network with the transmission level.
  • Use transmission grid experience with automation to transpose on distribution networks (equipment, standards, etc.).
  • The ultimate intelligent network shall be based on a “plug and play” concept. To achieve this, utilities and manufacturers shall influence standards to move toward this vision.
  • Distribution feeders should be seen as an extension of the substation busbar.
  • The distribution automation roadmap is influencing Hydro-Quàƒ©bec’s R&D program.
Click here to enlarge image

Starting from the present distribution network (see Figure 3), each utility has to establish its own roadmap according to its guiding principles. This will result in addition of several intelligent electronic devices on the distribution system. Without any data integration standards the future intelligent distribution system can be complex and costly. Moreover the data management will be a challenge because of the amount of equipment needed on the distribution system and the evolution of the technologies. Figure 4 (previous page) summarizes Hydro-Quàƒ©bec’s roadmap focusing on the priorities from its business needs. It also shows the complexity of implementing all the different proprietary technologies without data integration standards.

Click here to enlarge image


Click here to enlarge image

The ultimate network shall include an integrated data and communication structure, equipments standardized under a plug and play concept and a link with the customer. At that point the distribution network will become an energy exchange network. Figure 5 (page 42) shows the ultimate automated distribution network with data integration standards and “Plug and Play” concepts.

Click here to enlarge image

The time frame may seem ambitious to some experts; it may seem too long to others, but the important fact is that it shows a target to reach. The time frame can be adjusted according to the evolution of the technologies and of the supporting standards.

Hydro-Quàƒ©bec’s vision is available in the document “Distribution System Automation Roadmap: 2005-2020″ issued at the end of 2005 as an update to its 2002 original study. This document can be found on the IEEE Distribution Automation Working Group website: http://grouper.ieee.org/groups/td/dist/da/doc.

Next Steps to Develop and Improve the Internal Roadmap

Hydro-Quàƒ©bec believes that such a distribution automation program will impact every business unit of the Distribution division. This is why Hydro-Quàƒ©bec Distribution will review the overall roadmap on the following topics:

  • system design,
  • system medium-voltage architecture,
  • system protection,
  • system operations,
  • system maintenance, and
  • power quality and customer satisfaction.

This broader roadmap will be produced in three phases

1. Data collection. Gathering information from Hydro-Quàƒ©bec’s internal departments and from other utilities to determine what link can be done between Hydro-Quàƒ©bec’s guiding principles and the industry tendencies in the different distribution system domains.

2. Forging a vision. From all the data collected previously, determine a common vision for all the Hydro-Quàƒ©bec Distribution departments. This will be done with a close relation between the technical staff and the management to determine the business drivers and guiding principles specific to Hydro-Quàƒ©bec Distribution.

3. Establishing a roadmap . From the common vision, the roadmap will trace the path through time to reach the final vision.

This project is scheduled to be completed by December 2007.

Georges Simard received his BSEE in 1978 from àƒâ€°cole Polytechnique de Montràƒ©al. In 1982, he joined Hydro-Quàƒ©bec’s Distribution department where he was involved in all the technical aspects of distribution including planning, system protection, independent power producer integration and power quality. He got his masters degree in engineering in 1998 before coming back to the distribution network strategic planning department where he is now responsible of the distribution planning standards for Hydro-Quàƒ©bec’s head office.

Denis Chartrand received his BSEE in 1981 from Universitàƒ© de Sherbrooke. He worked in several distribution departments at Hydro-Quebec including planning, engineering and network management. He came to the corporate level in 2001 were he is now chief of the strategic planning for the distribution network. He is in charge of Distribution’s long term planning, the development of technical and economic standards, and the distribution network development.


  • The Clarion Energy Content Team is made up of editors from various publications, including POWERGRID International, Power Engineering, Renewable Energy World, Hydro Review, Smart Energy International, and Power Engineering International. Contact the content lead for this publication at Jennifer.Runyon@ClarionEvents.com.

Previous articlePOWERGRID_INTERNATIONAL Volume 11 Issue 7
Next articleDuke Energy files with SEC to separate gas and electric businesses
The Clarion Energy Content Team is made up of editors from various publications, including POWERGRID International, Power Engineering, Renewable Energy World, Hydro Review, Smart Energy International, and Power Engineering International. Contact the content lead for this publication at Jennifer.Runyon@ClarionEvents.com.

No posts to display