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Author's profile photo Miquel Carbo

Digital Power Operations: blueprinting a new platform for Power Generation & Wholesale Companies

Power Generation is changing. The once financial pillar and more profitable business unit in energy companies is becoming the main stream of losses and headaches of traditional utilities which are taking radical decisions such as accelerating the decommissioning of some Power Plants, creating daughter companies where to transfer these assets or simply selling them.  It was a matter of time, but the speed of changes due to the impact of the renewable energy production and the adoption of smart grid technologies to manage the balancing processes associated to these new sources of energy is becoming very high and the forecast is that changes will continue even with a higher disruption once industrial batteries are adopted.

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Image 1. Source “Digital Power Operations, Plant Types” by M. Lutz Utilities IBU.

How “Traditional” Power Generation may survive in a context of massive replacement by renewables sources? Is the solution the removal of subsidies and compensations for these new sources?. It may be a different approach. As per image above related, the increase of renewables sources of energy increases the risks in the network. Production load is not so stable, it is more variable and conventional plants, which are more feasible, are necessary for compensating these variations, this is the Energy Balancing. For example wind may not be available in a park whose production capacity has been booked (or a windmill failure my occur as renewable assets are still more failure prone),  and therefore the recalculation of the available capacity Vs market demand has to be done on a quicker cycle, often in 15’ to 60’ slots depending on markets.

And here is the opportunity:  the increased variability and volatility of the Energy Market obliges  generation and wholesale companies to check constantly their open positions, capacity situation, nomination situation, market price situation and decide short-term on most economic options make or buy. All these fluent changes require production schedules to be adjusted (and companies may manage dozens of different production sites) or energy be procured on the market short-term.  Buy and Sell during the day, in short term, this is the intraday market:  are Power Generation organisations ready?

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Image 2. Source “Digital Power Operations, Plant Types” by M. Lutz Utilities IBU. 

Success in this new scenario is about realizing the value of seamless data flow between Power Generation and Wholesale organisations, and in particular between asset, dispatch, nomination, and trading data. Depending on economic options, both production or maintenance schedules would need to be adjusted short-term, and therefore a fast recalculation and exchange of schedule data is needed.  Since some months ago our colleague Michael Lutz, from the Utilities Industry  Business Unit is working in a Blueprint on how this new platform for Power Generation & Wholesale Companies may look like and how SAP portfolio may help. Together with some partners and companies a blueprint of this concept is being implemented as a PoC (Proof of Concept) at SAP Co-Innovation Lab (Coil) environment. Project name is “Digital Power”.

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Image 3. Digital Power Generation SAP Blueprint, high level view.

Goal is to bring forward a common energy data layer with a data model and services taking into account both asset-centric and dispatch-centric application requirements. This may be described by “portfolio management energy data services”. Such services would provide for example net and aggregate data of physical and trading positions according to portfolio attributes. Proposition is to leverage a concept called “Energy Cloud” which would be developed on HCP with IoT App Services. As you can see at image number three the high level concept looks for an integrated view of the different roles and needs for Power Production and Wholesale. Two main work streams of current stage of the prototype are addressing this goal (and yellow highlighted in picture number 3):

The first one is an integrated Repository of Energy information common for all the roles of the Wholesale part of the business based on SAP energy cloud. Digital Power Blueprint contains the integrated schedule data between maintenance and dispatching. It supports frequent rescheduling triggered by asset and market events. An extension is planned to connect 3rd party trading and nomination software and increase the scope of the Energy Portfolio layer of the Repository with Capacity Schedules (per generation unit, based on maintenance and scada data combined with other inputs such as job, resources, weather, price and dispatch data), Dispatch Schedules (aggregated), Deal data and Net positions calculated. Data is exchanged with dispatch, front-end trading and nomination tools. A Workflow is orchestrating the process.  This is a Big Data Platform

Second area is an Asset Information Platform integrating data from the operational technologies of the Plants together with the information from the transnational systems to increase the sophistication of the maintenance activities and gain plant availability. Since some years ago technical asset management organizations are pursuing an evolution of the current maintenance strategies, based on scheduled / regular maintenance and inspection plans, into a more sophisticated strategy which can be condition based, reliability based or Predictive just naming the most frequent actually adopted. Reasons are diverse but related with this scenario is the need to increase or assure the ratios of availability in order to achieve the energy wholesale goals. SAP is working in delivering these functions in its portfolio so, what is new here? Current Blueprint is focusing in providing the information to discover and decide the right approach, this is the right maintenance methodology to apply  for relevant technical assets: Which events grouped by asset category, model, component, maintenance type, cause contributed +80% to lifecycle costs? ; Which type of costs can be improved and what is the potential improvement value? ; Have maintenance strategy been effective and need to be adjusted?. These kind of reports and indexes require the integration of operational data together with activity history and financial data, this is an “IT-OT integration” use case. By answering these questions an investment in sophisticated maintenance approaches can be done with the assurance of meeting the goals.

Holistic approach

While this picture reflects the concept around Energy Cloud, multiple Partner and SAP portfolio components are being considered in order to provide a complete solution for Digital Power Operations. Just to complete diagram explanation we highlight the following elements of SAP portfoilo*:.

  • IoT (internet of Things) connectivity to bring the large stream of  data required into the Energy Cloud Platform
  • Pdms (Predictive Maintenance and Service) as the foundation for Asset Information Platform
  • MDG (Master Data Governance) to assure data quality in the Asset Information Platform
  • FSCM (Fuel Supply Chain Management):  To optimize the acquisition, transport and management of the fuel for fossile power plants
  • SPP:  Spare Parts Planning:  to manage spares the demand forecast in larger horizon and optimize the supply chain
  • AIMN (Asset Intelligence Network):  this is the marketplace of technical asset information and services

*. List not extensive.

As highlighted in the title this is a blueprint, a live project. Part of these ideas are already implemented and tested in the COIL infrastructure, so demos are available or can be scheduled. Goal is to complete as much as possible these scenarios so any company and partner interested to join us and share efforts and ideas is welcomed.

Are you interested? Do not miss the opportunity to take part on a live demo and deep discussion on this subject at  this year´s International SAP Conference for Utilities, which will take place in The Hague, Netherlands from April 11 – 13, 2016.

At the Conference exhibition area, we invite you to join one of the Microforums on Digital Power – A Solution Blueprint for Generators and Wholesalers, taking place on Tuesday, April 12th at 10:50 and Wednesday, April 13th at 13:20. More information is available by clicking in this link

This event presents a world-class networking and learning opportunity. Take advantage of the opportunity to meet one on one with our executive team and solutions experts, as well as global customer and partners – all in one place at one time.

Download your copy of the detailed agenda now and register your place.

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