How to reduce outage costs?

What kind of assistance would the power network operator appreciate in the middle of a major storm? Prioritized fault management, for sure.

Imagine being the control center operator during a huge storm, power outages are spread widely all over the grid and many faults appear simultaneously on your screen. Businesses, schools, shopping malls, hospitals, factories and several thousand households are facing a complete blackout…

Which faults should you manage first? How do you decide? Which loads take priority and need to be reconnected first? You don’t want to waste time considering each possible scenario separately. Your decision might have a huge impact on consumers and business owners. You need to act fast, effectively and most importantly – cost efficiently.

Luckily, the solution to this nightmare scenario is available and accessible to you for real world conditions. Your distribution management system (DMS) makes quick decisions based on huge amounts of data collected from the network. Priority is pre-set in the DMS according to safety and economic parameters. Accurate fault location and prioritization-based fault management help utilities to improve operational efficiency, to increase reliability of power supply, and to reduce outage costs.

In this scenario, seamlessly and without notice, step-by-step, power is returned to the hospital, the factory, even the home where a patient is connected to a critical ventilation aid.

The two major winter storms of 2011 were a wake-up call to Finnish regulators, forcing them to ensure the reliability of power supply in the future. This led to the new and very strict Electricity Market Act of 2013. The law stipulates that outages may not last longer than six hours in urban areas, or 36 hours in rural areas. By 2028, distribution system operators must be able to comprehensively guarantee that the length of any interruption in their distribution network will be within these limits. How would this be achieved?

Traditionally, the reliability of power supply to a network could be improved by underground cabling and increasing the distribution automation solution to a suitable level by investing in new assets and/or updating existing power distribution systems. One of the ways this could be achieved is by applying the Zone Concept – dividing the power distribution system into limited and manageable sections or protection zones.

Modern distribution management system tools can help to minimize the cost of outages by automatically prioritizing the zones in relation to each other, based on different attributes e.g. power consumption or production, critical customers and number of customers in each zone. This way the focus of power restoration is placed upon the highest prioritized part (zone) of the network – benefitting the utility by improving their customer service and meeting regulation limits, and thus avoiding penalties.

As part of the improvement of the complete solution, ABB’s unique multi-frequency admittance-based earth-fault detection algorithm has been incorporated into the fault passage indication (FPI) device, RIO600.

This long-awaited breakthrough detects all types of earth faults with unequalled accuracy, irrespective of the type of distribution network, and especially in compensated and isolated neutral networks, where accurate and selective earth-fault detection is challenging.

This means that during fault in the distribution network, the faulty section or branch can be indicated and reported to the DMS to rapidly visualize the fault point on the geographical network view. Fast and reliable FPI is a key element for successful and effective automated and prioritized fault location, isolation and service restoration management, utilizing the implemented control or protection zones.

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About the author

Jarkko Holmlund

Jarkko has had different tasks and positions in the global Distribution Automation business for the past 15 years. Majority of his career he has been engaged in with Grid Automation product management, project management and sales promotion with a strong customer focus and solution oriented approach.
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