Efficient energy management – Increased demand for electrical grids requires new engineering processes

The ongoing energy transition brings about massive investments in electrical grids. In order to cope with the significantly higher number of projects with the given resources on ever tighter schedules, energy suppliers need a high degree of standardisation for their data. A database-supported engineering concept can help grid operators to significantly increase their efficiency.

With the increasing share of renewable energies, the demand for electrical grids is growing steadily. Today, the energy supply keeps surpassing the capacity of the available distribution infrastructure. Energy providers need to meet increasingly higher demands: grids have to be extended as soon as possible, at the same time commissioning and therefore revenues keep being delayed. Since it requires many times the amount of substations and grid infrastructure, decentralised energy production through wind parks or privately owned solar roofs drives the upsurge of projects and overall volume.

 

Growing pressure on operators and suppliers

Suppliers are facing tougher requirements as well. Grid operators demand customised planning and documentation. However, data transfer and synchronisation between manufacturers and operators are time-consuming endeavours. Suppliers can often bill up to 20 percent of their contract volume only after the documentation is adapted to the guidelines that apply in each respective case. The effort on both sides, i.e. on behalf of the operator and the supplier, is immense, whereas success is rarely guaranteed.

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What are the implications for engineering?

To meet the demands of this changed status quo, project run times need to be shortened while quality is maintained. The required manpower often cannot be provided due to a shortage of skilled personnel. For this reason, engineering processes have to be modified to accommodate these more difficult circumstances. To be able to rise to future challenges, engineering systems need to be open to new, cooperative workflows. This demands a holistic approach looking at processes on both the operators’ and the suppliers’ sides. This is the only way to identify and minimise process and media breaches.

 

Central database for workflow efficiency

Engineering systems must permit interdisciplinary work processes regardless of location and without the need to enter data multiple times. Time-consuming data synchronisation and extensive consultation between parties need to be kept to an absolute minimum. TenneT TSO GmbH, one of the leading electricity transmission system operators, uses Engineering base. The platform enables new workflows with the highest possible flow rate throughout all engineering processes and its periphery. The database achieved a significantly higher level of standardisation and the number of project templates and typicals could be reduced by around two thirds. Engineering Base’s integrated Advanced Typical Manager effectively achieved cost savings of 75 percent by increasing efficiency in project planning. At the same time, the amount of master data was reduced notably.

 

The future of energy engineering

With the growing focus on renewable energies, the divide between energy production and consumption has become a geographical one. This results in major fluctuations in terms of feed-in power that have to be accommodated by the grid-infrastructure. Given the continued development towards grids 4.0, protective devices are increasingly turned into control technology. To ensure grid balance, the many decentralised generating stations need to be grouped together in virtual energy plants that govern the communication and feed-in power. Higher efficiency, more flexibility and faster processes at the highest possible level of safety and quality are required more than ever. This begins as early as the tendering process: As little as five to 30 percent of the contracts are actually won. To clear more time for profitable projects, engineering solutions minimise the amount of time otherwise needed for tendering processes. Provided a consistent and seamless cooperation as well as an openness in a company’s engineering processes, the energy transition actually comes with a lot of untapped potential and offers operators a host of new opportunities.

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