In some way or another we have all been impacted by the increasingly frequent extreme weather events hitting our planet. Addressing this reality needs an immediate and comprehensive action. The question is how do we do it. Can we make sense of decades of information and turn those insights into actions that will alleviate the extreme pressure our planet is under?
Let’s take the evolution of our electric grid as an example and the immense challenges it has experienced during decades of energy expansion and usage, while managing the increasing demands of an electrified society. Today, we often see the grid as a simple thing. By the flip of a switch, we turn on the lights in our homes and offices, charge our cellphones, operate machinery at our factories, and transport ourselves and our products from place to place using electric vehicles. But all of these activities have put increasing strain on a system that was built decades ago and that today, more than ever, is threatened by two major challenges:
1. Climate change is increasing the frequency and magnitude of severe weather events
From 1980-2020, the US sustained 285 severe weather events, resulting in 354 deaths and cumulative financial losses exceeding 1.875 trillion USD. From 2016-2020, the losses amounted to 600 billion USD, roughly 1/3 of the total losses over the 40 years.* As we continue the critical acceleration of the Energy Transition, we need to strategically balance the intermittency of renewable generation sources like wind and solar (estimated to provide 24% of the world’s electricity in 2030 and around 62% by 2050**) and its dependency on weather conditions, which makes them highly vulnerable to extreme weather events.
2. Aging infrastructure is increasingly vulnerable to forced outages
Aging grid infrastructure, such as transmission lines that were installed in the 1950s and 1960s with a 50-year life expectancy, were not designed to operate under such extreme weather events and, at present they are already way past their designed lifetime, thus becoming even more prone to outages during severe weather conditions.*** As per one of the previous reports from the US Department of Energy, power outages cost American businesses around 150 billion USD per year.
What can be done to improve Reliability and Resiliency of the future Transmission Grid?
With the transmission grid becoming increasingly vulnerable to severe weather events, the potential impact of large-scale outages on our society could be catastrophic. Operators today are gradually getting into the unchartered territories of managing the grid under such extreme conditions. On the other hand, they may not even have enough time to manually come up with viable plans to mitigate emergency situations and then execute them to operate the grid in a stable and reliable manner.
For years GE Digital has pioneered Asset Level Digital Twins, and as a natural progression we have now developed a Network Digital Twin to significantly enhance the transmission grid reliability and resiliency in a cost-effective manner during emergency operations. GE’s Smart Transmission Outage & Restoration Manager (STORM) is that next-generation Network Digital Twin.
STORM has a suite of diverse cross-domain models and multi-disciplinary software applications to holistically and scientifically consider both non-power and power system factors to provide:
STORM harnesses the combined power of data-driven intelligence and physics-driven intelligence to adapt to fast changing situations. Its adaptability, speed, accuracy, and precision of dynamic planning and execution can significantly help grid operators minimize risks to public safety during emergency events, while still ensuring that grid stability is maintained all throughout, with minimum loss of power to consumers.
STORM includes Transmission Outage & Restoration Planner (TORP), a data analytics application, along with Real Time Shutdown & Restoration Manager (RTSRM), a control room Advanced Energy Management System (AEMS) application. RTSRM has been successfully used in pilot-phase testing for emergency grid operations management during two wildfire seasons in California (2019 & 2020). It is now running in production, offering GE Digital customers automated decision support during such extreme weather-driven emergency grid events.
The challenges of the Energy Transition are more complex than ever before. This critical transformation cannot be done with the technologies and grids of the past, and humans alone can’t solve this problem. This is where digital innovation and technology can help accelerate this transition by complementing human knowledge and skills. Digital technologies, like our software, are playing a pivotal role in creating a highly reliable and resilient energy system of the future.
*NOAA Climate.gov Data: NCEI & Climate Central
**DNV-GL Report, “Energy Transition Outlook 2020 – A global and regional forecast to 2050”, published in eto.dnv.com, 2020.
***The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE)
Apply advanced analytics and machine learning to help reduce operational costs and risks.
Digital twins are a key piece of the digital transformation puzzle. They create an accurate virtual replica of physical objects, assets, and systems to boost productivity, streamline operations and increase profits.
Learn how Competitive Power Ventures has increased use of the gas turbine’s peak fire service by 10x with software using Digital Twin technology.
Learn how a major power producer was able to deliver an additional $30K/day in additional capacity by employing digital twin technology.
Read how Asset Performance Management software helped YPF increase asset reliability and availability while optimizing maintenance costs.