Utilities effect distribution optimization with holistic approach

By Dana Bacciocco, Associate Editor

The new definition of distribution optimization includes more than linear measurement of network components-utilities’ drive for efficiency has changed distribution optimization to mean improvement in total operations. “Detailed load flows are only part of the big picture, that is, what it takes to deliver new service and energy to customers,” according to Doug Laslo, utility industry manager at Autodesk.

“The way to reliability, best cost, and compliance in line design is down the path of optimization. Optimization first requires an evaluation of practices throughout the business. Although design optimization involves improved tools, it is above all a process change,” according to Fred Behrmann, LineSoft engineer. “Energy delivery to customers is the top priority. Regulatory compliance and adherence to company standards is obligatory. The crucial new factor is the addition of best-cost procedures to the mix of delivery and compliance.”

In the classic model, utilities separated distribution optimization, outage management, and general maps and records. The goal is to have one model-a map base usable by all three areas, and the bottom line is for utilities to make work hours more effective.

“Over the past 10 years, the energy industry pushed for more efficiency because of the hint of competition or at least re-regulation,” said Laslo. Map bases and information sets traditionally have not been well connected.

Threefold utility operations systems consist of: GIS, the information set of associations; planning and engineering, the detailed distribution optimization including electrical usage and load studies; and outage management.

“The more those systems can talk to each other the better the decision process can get. And if those three things can run through common database and connectivity model using the same database, and if the model can be maintained as part of the business process, there are huge savings,” said Laslo.

“North American utilities are very interested in this linkage model. Because of regulatory pressures, everybody’s trying to get the model where outage management is more correct and more pure. And where the change is known about first and foremost is in the design process-that’s what I mean by capturing the changes as part of the normal workflow. If you get the adjustment during the design, then you captured it to send it to the outage management system.”

According to Laslo, “There can be a 20 to 40 percent reduction in planning and engineering in the workforce, and 20 to 40 percent reduction in outage management in the workforce as a result.” Laslo witnessed this kind of efficiency increase at FirstEnergy.

“It’s all about minimization of work to keep the system well and keep information correct,” said Laslo. In the late 80s and early 90s, the attitude was more that of a research game. Now it’s all part of the big picture and tied to the bottom line.

Both Autodesk and LineSoft have responded to utilities’ drive for efficiency in distribution optimization and have enhanced their expertise through partnerships.

Autodesk acquired Gentry Systems, a supplier of specialized software tools and services to more than 300 companies in 11 countries in the electric utility industry. The acquisition gave Autodesk industry-specific design functionality and services helping extend its vision to the electric utility market with added features for designing networks and integrating GIS data and systems at the enterprise decision support level, addressing utilities goal to reduced costs, streamline operational efficiency, and increase competitiveness. Autodesk has also partnered with ABB Power Systems to produce an interface for the GIS and planning and outage tools.

LineSoft and Logica together are meeting the high level of engineering design and work management integration required by utilities seeking to improve their design and work management processes and to create a seamless and efficient enterprise solution.

Laslo can be reached at doug.laslo@autodesk. com. Visit www.autodesk.com or www.linesoft.com for more information.

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