Internet of things in the energy sector: IT specialists instead of electricians

In the electric power industry, an innovative development path is an objective necessity. Without modern IT systems, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to solve the problems of developing the industry today, and in the future, it will become completely impossible. Digital solutions in the electric power industry make it possible both to optimize the use of existing infrastructure and to include the latest energy storage systems, controlled consumption solutions, as well as systems used to organize energy services near consumers in the generation and distribution process.

IoT solutions for meters control

For the energy sector, the topic of the Internet of things is quite lively and promising. We have a distributed network of very different objects. They need to be managed somehow, to observe their behavior. You can’t run into all objects, so remote monitoring is extremely important, and we pay great attention to it.

The first direction is connected with the control of meters. Losses due to illegal connections, damaged meters, and other frauds result in a significant amount. Modern meters can transmit data through various channels. If there are “failures” or illogical consumption profiles in the indications provided by consumers, that is, it is possible to obtain data from the meters themselves.

This is the most significant part of the project of the Internet of things because it is associated with «live» money. By tying the sensors of entire areas with the control system, it is possible to significantly improve the situation. Besides, we have a system for calculating the payroll balance implemented on the SAP platform. We see how much energy went into the substation and how much money was raised. If there are obvious inconsistencies, we begin to deal with the substation in more detail, send inspectors with a mobile solution there and identify the centers of loss.

How IoT helps to monitor equipment

The second important area related to the Internet of things is monitoring equipment, primarily substations of various levels. Not everywhere there are good communication channels, large substations have the necessary infrastructure, but in the villages, you have to resort to the services of mobile operators. The data collected is uploaded to the supervisory control system, and specialists see the condition of the equipment.

We are currently researching the formation of a single integration platform that could equally perceive protocols coming from commercial electricity metering systems. Thus, it is possible to improve the observability of our network, to cover not only large nodes but also small segments. In case of failures, we can quickly send teams there, thereby reducing equipment downtime and increasing useful leave.

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Income or equipment: what's more important

For energy, the issues of electricity metering and equipment reliability have always been fundamental and have been put at the forefront. Everything else is secondary, including investment, accounting, and financial and economic activities.

Still, accounting is the first, it is a priority, since, according to our estimates, the effect of accounting will be greater than the savings on equipment operation. It is clear that for remote control of digital equipment at substations, it is no longer necessary to have an electrician, but an IT specialist who is more expensive. Therefore, operating savings are not so pronounced.

It’s easier to collect money from consumers — set a meter, set up a monitoring system. Saving on the operation is a long and less profitable business, but the issue of reliability is strategically important.

The place of the Internet of things in IT strategy

Now the importance of the Internet of things is noticeably increasing in connection with the digitalization of the network. The reconstruction and construction of new substations, their equipping with digital devices for collecting data and controlling substations — electronic actuators are actively going on. In this case, the role of the Internet of things increases many times, since in the conditions of “ideal” digitalization the network can self-regulate: network elements can communicate with each other and transfer the load to each other. However, this is in the future.

Closer and more relevant for us is that modern devices form the basis of a decision support system for a dispatcher, prompting him with options. For example, thanks to electronics, you can very precisely control the network by controlling the quality of electricity. Electronic substation responds faster to deviations and makes it possible to take preventive measures.