Power delivery is often an overlooked industry: everyone expects that the lights come on when they flip the switch. This concept was pushed to the limits throughout the pandemic with large and frequent societal shifts in power usage. How did your utility respond during the pandemic to ensure that power delivery remained an afterthought for your customers?
- As a public utility, priorities often lie with managing reliable supply of power and minimizing “customer risk” due to outages. Following the shift to remote work, this would shift focus (e.g., outage response and upgrades for resiliency) from areas with dense commercial office space towards residential areas.
- Capacity management was thrown a curve-ball as the distribution of load and timing of peak demand may have shifted. Following remote work some areas of the system experienced extreme changes in load growth/deflation.
- Shifting investments to achieve the greatest immediate value, while being cognizant of the eventual rebound, while simultaneously managing long-term impacts and new challenges for the modern utility. The limited budget for short-term investments.
The impacts of the pandemic were largely unpredictable outside reasonable forecasting uncertainty. But once the pandemic pushed us beyond the status quo: were you able to respond? Were you able to re-forecast and re-evaluate the effect to the grid and its customers, and did investment priorities change to account for these impacts?
A decision to “stay-the-course” may have been the best option in hindsight, if it was a conscience decision rather than fueled by lack of systems able to re-forecast and adjust planning priorities. Effective grid planning is increasingly demanding more scenario analysis. Be it capacity forecasting, risk management, outage response, or long-term portfolio planning, the modern utility is being increasingly driven to consider a range of possibilities and be ready to adjust on-the-fly when situations push us beyond the norms. This requires:
- Automation for repetitive tasks to elevate your time making decisions
- Centralized source of truth with distributed access to ensure consistency
- “Design for scenario analysis” to ensure flexibility in your process
- Continuous improvement since no model or process is ever perfect
The world’s governments and energy agencies have shown the impact of COVID as mostly a blip as far as climate change is concerned, and the world is mostly back on track with pre-pandemic levels of emissions. Short-term impacts were record breaking in many ways with extreme changes in sectors such as aviation and ground transportation, but overall emissions reductions were not as large as you may expect given the disruption you likely experienced in your life. But there are some lasting changes, such as increase in remote work and continued reduction in ground traffic.
What are the lasting impacts for the electric grid? Have these been considered to update your long-term plans going forward? Perhaps more importantly, what aspects of the pandemic do you think were our “trial run” for future changes that we will be seeing in the electric grid. Do you have the right systems in place to analyze these different scenarios and plan accordingly?
Chris Rockx has over 5 years of experience delivering asset management solutions in the power systems consulting industry, with a focus on implementing ground-up models for the analysis of the power grid. A generalist in power systems, software development, and financial modelling, Chris leverages his power system engineering background to deliver asset management solutions that speak to the needs of detailed engineers and business executives.
As the Head of Product, Chris has led the delivery and expansion of ENGIN™ throughout its history. Chris is well-versed in the processes of asset risk assessment, economic life-cycle analysis, long-term capital planning, asset condition assessment, and reliability analysis and forecasting.