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Energy

Digital Solutions for Power Grids: Guiding North American Electric Utilities to the Resolution of their Management Issues

Background: Digital Solutions Supporting the Transformation of Electric Utilities

Today, major global trends such as decarbonization, distribution of power grids and the growing introduction of renewable energy sources are forcing electric utilities to change the way they manage their business.
The challenges facing electric utilities as the adoption of renewable energy becomes more widespread include maintaining the balance of supply and demand, and ensuring resilience and security with regard to natural disasters such as typhoons and wildfires.
One approach currently gaining attention as a means of resolving these management issues is the use of digital technologies such as data analysis using IoT and AI. Electric utilities are seeking to resolve various management issues by converting data obtained via day-to-day operations into management indicators; such as through the integration of data dispersed across storage on various individual systems (which was not utilized effectively until now), application of necessary sensing, and the development of simulation and prediction technologies utilizing this data.

The North American market is said to have around 3,000 electric utilities , which take a more proactive approach to improving the management of their business by utilizing digital technologies. In this market, Hitachi aims to create digital solutions based on customer issues by interviewing customers to identify their problems directly.

Issue: Using Digital Technologies to Overcome Issues and Risks that are Difficult to Predict

Hitachi is working to identify the issues of electric utilities from the following three perspectives.
- Grid operation amid changes to energy portfolios as a result of the mass introduction of renewable energy
- Management with consideration for quality and lifetime costs of massive amounts of equipment and assets dispersed across many locations
- Response to natural disasters, cyber-security risks and other external risks
Hitachi also recognizes the provision of solutions which contribute to the business resilience of electric utilities with consideration for sudden and unexpected social risk factors, such as the spread of COVID-19 infections, as another issue which it is expected to tackle.
In particular, external risks such as natural disasters and cyber security risks have been recognized once again as a management issue for electric utilities. Damage to power equipment from frequently-occurring large-scale wildfires in California and also hurricanes in Southwest is becoming a serious issue. There are also cases in which electric utilities are being required to pay compensation for damages caused by wildfires occurring due to deficiencies in the management of electric power equipment.
Hitachi is currently considering the creation of solutions utilizing digital technologies which handle issues that until now were regarded as difficult to monitor and predict.

Solution: Hitachi Digital Solutions that Support the Management of Risks that are Common Among Electric Utilities

By combining the OT (Operational Technology) know-how and customer network developed by North America-based Hitachi T&D Solutions with IT know-how by Hitachi Vantara, Hitachi is aiming to create digital solutions to support the management of various risks shared by electric utilities.
For example, to reduce damage caused by wildfires and hurricanes, electric utilities spend massive costs on vegetation management for managing trees in proximity to power transmission lines. Currently, patrols are conducted primarily by human personnel. Although in recent years, operators are considering the use of drones and LiDAR*1, management costs and the challenges of maintaining management quality for equipment spread out over a wide area along transmission lines still present major management issues. For this issue, Hitachi is developing digital solutions for felling trees in a planned manner by identifying tree types and predicting their growth, through the analysis of satellite photographs based on extensive technologies and experience in the utilization of satellite images. Through these solutions, Hitachi is contributing to the reduction of tree-felling costs and the risk of power outages.

Hitachi is also developing a system that makes use of acoustic analysis know-how to identify abnormalities in the internal structure of power transmission and transformation equipment―which until now required the use of dedicated sensors―as an asset management solution. Using external microphones to simply capture and diagnose the sounds produced by devices, this solution will enable easy maintenance and operation of aging power transmission and transformation equipment at low cost.

Future outlook: Contributing to the Creation of Efficient and Resilient Energy Infrastructure

There is currently worldwide demand for transformation in the electric power business.
Hitachi has established Hitachi ABB Power Grids in association with ABB, a company with a global top-class share in the power grid business. Through the combination of Hitachi ABB Power Grids' capabilities with Hitachi's powerful Lumada digital solutions, we are working towards the further realization of digital innovation with a view to building the efficient and resilient energy infrastructure demanded by electric utilities and end users alike. Looking ahead, Hitachi will continue to contribute to solving social issues and improving people’s Quality of Life through collaborative creation with customers.

*1  LiDAR:Light Detection and Ranging

  • Date of release: January 2021
  • In charge of solution: Digital Business Strategy Division, Energy Business Administration Division Hitachi, Ltd.