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Pushing for a digital future for substations

Traditional energy network substations are evolving into digital substations, with major breakthroughs that may provide enormous gains for GCC utilities. These innovations are gradually giving rise to an intelligent grid

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Digital, Substations

The global digital substations market will reach 9.75 billion USD by 2023 from 6.13 billion USD in 2017 with a CAGR of 8.04% during the period.

Increase in demand for electricity and the need to replace aging infrastructure is driving the market growth. Government funding initiatives in collaboration with the private utilities is increasing the installation of digital substations across the globe. However, the high initial investment for setting up the digital substation is restraining the market growth.

Asia-Pacific will grow at a high rate owing to the expanding power distribution networks in countries including India, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Taiwan. North America will hold significant share in the market due to increase adoption of digital substations and the presence of well-established players.

Substation automation includes intelligent electronic devices (IEDs), control commands from remote users, and automation and control capabilities within the substation fence to provide intelligent information to properly control the power system devices to ensure that end users receive uninterrupted power service from their electric utilities.

17% (1.2 billion people) of the global population lack access to electricity, and the other 83 percent want more reliable and efficient electricity.  Developing countries need to double their electrical power output to meet rising demand, and by 2035, they will represent 80 percent of the total growth in both energy production and consumption.

This pent-up demand will be satisfied by additional substations that will require substation automation.  This will bring new concepts, if not necessarily new technologies, into play.  The future is digital substations, and these will come about as retrofits and new substations.

Microgrids are going to be a critical element in the developing markets and for geographically islanded customers.  Microgrid growth will be driven by increased reliance on renewables in the energy mix and supported by new developments in battery storage.

Recent technology trends around the world have set the GCC electric grid on the path for a complete overhaul. While the utilities industry has for long been known for resisting changes, even as everything else around it succumbed to them, the unremitting push for diversification of energy sources is prompting a paradigm shift.

Today, the grid is evolving in the wake of new industry realities that are pushing regional utilities to reassess their positioning for the digital future in a world of fast changing consumer tastes and ubiquitous interconnectivity.

Even as the GCC utilities plan investments to the tune of $100bn in renewable energy over the next five years to boost current power supply, serious concerns remain over power intermittency especially in the absence of utility scale storage. This and several other considerations continue to make a strong case for smart grids.

GCC Utilities are gradually moving from a one-way system where power flows from centralised generation stations to consumers, to a platform that can detect, accept, and control decentralised consumption and production assets so that power and information can flow as needed in multiple directions.

This common industry vision is what has come to be widely known as the “intelligent grid.” The intelligent grid builds on the industry’s innovative heritage of increasing interconnectedness using sensors, smart devices, and networked operations. Achieving it will require a myriad of technologies, including numerous Internet of Things (IoT) applications.

At the heart of these advances are exponential technologies like sensors, robotics, and advanced analytics, which together form advanced, interconnected systems capable of quickly analysing large amounts of data. These critical systems are the sensory organs, nerves, and brains capable of giving electric systems the flexibility and agility necessary to enable ideas like a self-healing grid and plug-and-play generation—an intelligent grid.

“The world today has more machines than there are people, and a lot of useful information is coming out of these machines,” says Mostafa AlGuezeri, managing director, ABB, the United Arab Emirates.

“When you connect the two, you can unlock a huge amount of productivity that can take this industry to a whole new level.”

As major utility companies chart the course to growth and returns through digital transformation, the global number of devices being managed by utility companies is projected to grow to 1.53 billion in 2020. But this is just the beginning of this industry’s transformation. As major utility companies chart the course to growth and returns through digital transformation, the global number of devices being managed by utility companies is projected to grow to 1.53 billion in 2020. But this is just the beginning of this industry’s transformation.

GCC utilities are determined to unlock the full potential of deploying digital solutions across the entire electric power eco-system. The deployment of smart grids in the GCC is expected to help the region save up to $10bn in infrastructural investment by 2020, according to industry analysts.

Last year, ABB won an order worth more than $90mn from Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA), to build the Shams 400 kV substation that will integrate solar power from upcoming phases of the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum (MBR) solar park into the emirate’s electrical grid.

The MBR solar park, located inland 50km south of Dubai, is a central part of Dubai’s renewable strategy. When completed in 2030, the park will occupy 214km2, generate 5,000MW and reduce carbon emissions by approximately 6.5 million tonnes.

ABB has been contracted for the design, supply, and installation and commissioning of the Shams 400/ 132 kV substation, which once completed, will have an overall capacity of more than 2,000 megavolt amperes (MVA). Once Phase 3 of the project is finished in 2020, the total solar power generated through Solar PV will exceed 1,000 MW, which will lower carbon emissions.

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