The power utilities worldwide are facing the problems of aging infrastructures and transmission losses. These utilities also have the burden of meeting the increasing consumer expectations and regulatory policies of the governments. The complicated transmission systems used in these facilities are not suitable for adapting to sustainable energy and smart grid technology. In some of the developing countries of Asian region and Latin America, the transmission loses are more than 15%. With increasing population and energy demand, the above factors have resulted in decreased efficiency for power utilities. However the governments are advising the utility owners to shift focus on automation to meet the challenges faced by energy sector.
The utility automation includes various technology through which the transmission systems are made capable to meet the emerging market demands. Reliable transmission, prompt customer service, efficient controlling techniques are some of the needs met by utility grid automation. The automation has also facilitated the two way communication, security enhancement and asset management for the customers. The utility grid automation’s market can be segmented on the basis of the services and technologies. The common type of technologies used are Advanced Metering Infrastructure, Automatic Vehicle Location, Customer and Financial Information System, Demand-side Management Impact, Demand Response, Distribution Automation, Geographic Information Systems, Mobile Work Management, Motor Controls and Automation Outage Management System, Supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems, and Substation Automation.
The above technologies cover all the dimensions of utility transmission and distribution network. Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) provides real time data to the supplier and user about the power consumption. This data helps in making informed choices for energy saving. Automatic Vehicle Location (AVL) is used to determine the geographic location of the vehicle similar to GPS. These systems help in maximizing the safety of the employees and supports in time services for the customers. Customer and Financial Information System (CIS & FIS) have eased the workflow in utilities generating improved customer response and accurate billing. The demand response management is used for optimizing the response time and appropriating supply based on demand calculations. The Distribution Automation (DA) is being applied in many utilities to improve the core of power distribution systems. The output in the form of reliable service, reduce customer complaints and outages has increased the efficiency of utilities. The DA is being applied to the urban as well as the rural areas’ utilities.
Geographic Information Systems (GIS) can store and plot information about the electric and other systems of the utilities. This system facilitates planning, electric system modeling, outage management prediction, and inventory system management, among others. Mobile Work Management (MWM) refers to systems optimizing the operations and designing of utility. This includes the management of service orders, construction orders, project designs, audit, inspections, and implementing of the other automated technologies. Motor Automation refers to the centralized centers for motor control and may vary as local control, fully automated and integrated control. Supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems include the real time data exchange. This data help in supporting the smart grid networks. IP networks are being used for substation automation. This has benefited the data collection and calculation of fault statistics. The data can be used for taking preventive measures for equipment used in utilities.
The utility automation’s market is in its growth stage. The utility automation is being done for partially automated stations or for retrofits. However the grid efficiency, reliable power distribution and optimized customer services provided by the automation will act as major drivers in the coming years. The developing countries are being considered as the most attractive market for utilities automation. These regions have the major demand of power and the least efficient network. These factors will aid in the demand of automation and penetration will be easier in developing markets. However the huge initial investment may act as a hindrance to the market growth. Additionally there are very few vendors in the market providing integrated services. Thus to achieve substantial growth, the companies should focus on setting benchmarks and integrated solutions for the utilities.
Some of the major players providing the utility automation technologies and services are Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories, Inc., Schneider Electric, S&C Electric Company, NovaTech, LLC, Landis+Gyr, Itron, Infrax Systems, Alstom Sa, ABB, Eaton, Cisco Systems, Inc., General Electric Company and Siemens AG, among others.
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