The journey to digital future for power utilities: Emerson Exchange

digital future for power utilities

During the Emerson Exchange Virtual Series, this Thursday, experts discussed how power utilities are addressing the issue of their digital future. Brett Benson, director of power solutions of Emerson Power and Water, conducted the talk.

Firstly, the panelists agreed on the fact that going towards a digital future is a journey with many layers embedded to it; it is not an overnight process, but constant movement and adoption of technologies and ideas.

Second, the most evident future for power utilities in digitalization is remote operations; through advanced monitoring, advanced control, to semi-autonomous and finally autonomous activities, all integrated into one operational platform.

Mark Pavelka, from Brazos Electric, said. “Indeed I would even go further into think that at some point there will be an integrated operator.” In response to Benson suggesting that, through remote and integrated ops, operation rooms from different plants can be now next door.

“Moreover, when you develop these remote centers, now your people come skill set different from your regular operations personnel,” Pavelka said. Also added. “By having the immediate diagnostics that are in front of the operator, you solve problems quickly; also you maintain reliability, and of course equipment availability.”

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digital future for power utilities

Scalable digital solutions for a solid start-point

Panelists agreed that adopting these changes are not just technological, but philosophical, ideological and of course technical. “Some of these changes are not well received, due to costs; still, this is not good or bad, but a learning process,” Pavelka concluded.

In addition, Kyle Lieurance, from Xcel Energy, underlined that achieving such integration and remote ops through digital solutions, is indeed a rocky journey. “We are just on the tip of the iceberg,” he said. Also added: “We are evaluating how this can use for our business model. It is a long process.”

Consequently, James Nyenhuis, performance consultant at Emerson P&W, said: “How do we know where to start; and start working as digital and automatic as possible? Ensure our foundation is solid as we continue to build on it.”

Specifically, Pavelka quoted advanced pattern recognition software; the development of high-quality historian, as the most solid start is good analysis and data collecting. “Verifying those models have made us save more than a million dollars due to failures caught before they actually happened” he also said.

In conclusion, panelists agreed that adopting remote operations to a fully automated and autonomous plant, is not an easy task, achievable overnight. But is indeed a task that requires a clear objective; and the adoption of scalable digital solutions to save budget and leverage key resources.

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