Future Grid Solutions spoke to Stephen Ståhlered of Ellevio about the DSO’s digitalization journey

What are the main challenges that Ellevio face as a network operator?
To balance our investment and maintenance portfolio so that we gain the best possible quality of supply for our customers, and over time spend the lowest amount of money possible. Of course, the optimisation towards our income regulation is an important part of the prioritisations we make.

Can you explain the goals and the thinking behind your Vision 2030 project?
The goal is to reduce outage time through faster restoration and to possibly avoid outages due to better information of the status of components and incidents in the network. One particularly important part is to increase utilisation of the upcoming investment in the next generations of meters with new capabilities, such as a low voltage RTU for each customer beside doing the job as an energy meter.
Digitalisation in stations and robust communication solutions giving a complete and transparent picture of our network will support our control centre in managing risks, outages and challenges in energy flows in a better way.

What role do digital technologies play in 2030 Vision?
It is a critical part of our solution. It is important that we use a robust solution that can manage our security demands and at the same time be at a reasonable cost.

How will Vision 2030 help you meet increasing customer expectations?
As always when it comes to reliability, customers’ expectations are that electricity shall always be available, which is challenging. If an outage occurs, we expect that the customers will be better informed about the outage and outage times will be shorter than today.

How will it improve your response to outages?
With much better understanding of where the fault current has gone, level of fault current and voltages from surrounding stations/customers we expect that we can faster localise the fault.
With more switchgear in central places we will be able to re-route electricity to minimise the number of customers affected. The restoration staff are then able to drive directly to the fault location. Based on information they can also prepare necessary materials and equipment to fix the fault faster than today.

Is this a change in operating philosophy for Ellevio? If so, how is this change being managed?
It is a change journey that needs to be managed. It is technology based but the real value is coming when staff use it properly; automation solutions are implemented and managed over time. We believe that we start a journey of at least ten years, and we do not know where we will end.

How will Vision 2030 make the Ellevio grid smarter?
With smartness – we mean automation, which will gradually take place – the first steps are to implement technology in more stations, install 900,000 new meters during the next two to three years and train our people.
The smartness will be re-routing, more pre-fault warnings from sensors and the gradual roll-out of automation solutions in the local grid (<24 kV) where the level of automation today is low. Can you give me some examples of the digitisation and the benefits they are, or will, deliver to both customers and Ellevio?
Shorter and fewer outages and better control of voltage quality for our customers. For Ellevio, lower costs that over time with present regulatory models will benefit the customers and to capture regulatory incentives. Also to have more satisfied customers be able to attract new and keep present employees, and last but not least to become a more data driven company and be able to invest in the primary network in an even better way than today.

How are you managing data as part of Vision 2030? Is it handled on a case by case basis or is it accessible to all Ellevio stakeholders in a data lake or warehouse?
We are working with Big Data solutions as data lake (Ellevio Big Data) as proof of concept. Final design and set up is planned during 2020.

How will the project improve visibility both for customers and Ellevio?
We expect the value of our brand to be improved with positive effects as mentioned above including satisfaction, recruitment, and profitability.

What are the other elements of the 2030 programme?
A particularly important part for a successful implementation is how Ellevio transforms from a DNO to a DSO. Large amounts of data and information needs new ways of working to achieve expected value as a payoff.

Can you give me a timeline for implementations?
Work has started in several areas such as investment planning for our regional grid, local grid, new communication platform and update of applications in our control centre. The rollout will start in 2020 with changes in ongoing projects. During 2021 we plan to start with our communication platform to a package-based system supporting our network operation and maintenance, this will continue until 2026-27.
The ramp up of digitisation in our substation (primary and secondary) will start in 2021 and go on continuously. The peak will probably be 2024-2027 and from that time be part of our normal investment strategy.

What is the aim for the network at the end of this digitisation journey?
That all our primary substations are fully digitised (550) and more than 30 per cent of our secondary substation (24,500). The Multi-Protocol Label Switching (MPLS) communication platform provides all the needed channels to support all business request of services for predictive operation and maintenance.
In addition, we plan to provide a fully updated support system for network operation and maintenance (SCADA, ADMS, DERM, OMS). New Application using information from the Data Fabric (Ellevio Big Data).