Scenarios for the electricity network
The regional network operator Enexis strives to achieve state-of-the art energy networks and processes, while being instrumental in accelerating the energy transition. Han Slootweg, Director of Asset Management and part-time Professor at the Faculty of Electrical Engineering at Eindhoven University of Technology, talks to Arthur van Schendel, Managing Director at Schuberg Philis, about the use of data and IT in the modern energy network.
What is your responsibility?
"Managing the energy networks is our core activity and our corporate strategy is to do this, while being cost effective and being a good employer. My role is to link the core activity to the strategy. And my background in energy systems and smart grids helps us make the right strategic choices with respect to our network assets."
Managing the energy network
What are your priorities? "We are in continuous contact with the municipalities, provincial governments, and the main actors in industry. On issues such as electric vehicles and sustainable energy production from sun, wind, and heat, we closely follow the government's lead. All these developments come together in our network, which must support all these developments."
Do you anticipate IT playing a role in controlling the retail network? "The electric grid is a huge sea of electrons. Producers pour a volume into it that continuously matches the demand. If the channels are not broad or deep enough, the flow is hindered. We prevent that by planning our energy networks better by using IT and data."
"It begins with good data on the capacity and use of the current network. Then you respond, if necessary, to the anticipated trends."
Requires a significant new IT approach
How do you develop forecasts? "It begins by collecting good data on the capacity and use of the current network. Then you respond, if necessary, to the anticipated trends. IT is important for harvesting data from the network and interpreting it by supporting forecasts. The energy transition has made these analyses extremely complicated, and the time window to plan shorter. The energy delivered by conventional power stations is predictable, while energy derived from wind and solar energy is not. This requires a significant new IT approach." The IT foundation that Schuberg Philis provides makes it possible to draw up data-based scenarios and forecasts.
Does that contribute to the energy transition? "Certainly, but network planning is still an art in itself. Despite the IT, you have to be able to interpret everything correctly. Cooperation between network planning, data scientists, and IT is becoming increasingly crucial."
For even better forecasts, Enexis and Schuberg Philis are now working on an overarching data platform that will bring together the traditional transaction systems, the GIS data and the sensors in the energy network. Specialized software, in combination with the Public Cloud, makes lightening-fast scenario calculations for the energy infrastructure possible, and very cheap. "This shows the impact of change due to the energy transition," says Hans Minderhoud, Information & Solution Architect at Enexis. "We calculated all the scenarios for a specific section of the grid in an hour, instead of several weeks. And it cost us just 13 euros."