digitization, efficiency and environment

Since in 1875 the first power station in Barcelona, the electrical network has evolved and grown unstoppably. Electricity is present in all aspects of our lives today and, in the coming decades, together with the development of renewable energy, it will play a essential role in the decarbonization of the planet and in the development of the economy. In the case of Barcelona, the 1992 Olympic Games marked a before and after for the city and its electricity grid.

The event required a demanding planning. The city went from 29 substations to 33, The high and medium voltage lines were buried with the construction of the underground service galleries of the Ronda Litoral containing more than 550 km of power lines, for the first time, developers were advised on the construction of the sites to find the best electrical systems, security measures and emergency systems. All this added to the contingency plans and the work carried out by the suppliers of the moment – FECSA, ENHER and HECSA -, which ensured the correct operation of the electricity grid during the Olympic Games and turned Barcelona into a benchmark city in electrical infrastructures.

“The Olympics were a key moment. Those substations became the mainstay of Barcelona’s supply and many of the improvements are still present today, such as the burying of medium and high voltage lines ”, he explains Jordi Casas, responsible for Endesa Control Center in Barcelona.

In 1992 FECSA, ENHER and HECSA had 2.4 million customers with an average contracted power of 3.5 kW and produced 17.08 GWh in Catalonia. Today there are 4.2 million customers with an average contracted power of 4.5 kW and Endesa produces 31.6 GWh. As 30 years ago, the electricity grid is living today a new era marked by the digitization and the electrification of the economy, which in the coming years will completely change the grid and the way we consume energy.

Digitization of the electrical network

Endesa is immersed in a process of digitization and automation of its infrastructures, by means of the remote control installation that allow control remotely and more efficiently the state of the electrical network. Actually in Catalonia there are already more than 12,000 automated installations and the medium voltage network already has nearly 10,000 remote controls.

With the remote controls you can monitor the network and know where a fault has occurred more efficientlyIn addition to solving most of the problems without having to move a team. This has improved the efficiency and ability to resolve an incident with a time investment 20% less than a few years ago. “Before we had to cut the line and send a team to the field to find out the point where the breakdown had occurred. Now we can detect it and many times solve it from the control center ”, explains Casas.

Another key role is played by the system LARS (Troubleshooting and Supply Replacement). This automatic program that is installed in the Control Center, acts in the same way as a human operator would. Performs maneuvers on the network to isolate the fault and restore the power supply in three minutes. The system also manages the remote controls and in the future it is expected that it will be able to perform many more functions. Only last year were carried out 461,300 remote operations, through the remote controls.

“All of this has been a great advance. For example, when there are critical meteorological phenomena such as large storms, we can detect incidents in the electricity grid much faster and solve them more efficiently. Unlike a human, the system can work solving several in parallel, ”says Casas.

How do you work in an Endesa Control Center?

Endesa’s Control Centers They are the brain that improves, maintains and ensures the correct functioning of the electrical network. His team works 24 hours a day, 365 days a year of the year in improving the network, doing maintenance and also in solving faults. The first two functions occupy 80% of your time and the third one 20%.

Screens take up most of the room. Behind them, the engineers check that everything is fine and spend their time carrying out the improvement and maintenance operations. The map of Catalonia there is completely different. The electrical network is represented as a mesh on an orthogonal map.

“Our job is for the consumer to have the service operational and, in the event of an incident, that the sooner we restore it, the better”, defines the head of the Control Center. Each engineer controls a portion of the Catalunya network from his desk, executes the scheduled jobs with the people who are on the ground, and is aware that everything works correctly.

The role of the Control Center also is essential for the safety of teams working in the field. Protocols are essential and operators are guided from there. “Electricity is invisible and cannot be seen. From the Control Center we set rules to work safely and the work only begins when we make sure that there is no longer any electricity in that section of the network ”, explains Casas.

Electrified economy and flexibility of the electricity grid

Electricity has been gaining space over other energy sources in recent years, especially as the best alternative for decarbonize the economy before 2050 and thus manage to alleviate the effects of climate change. Electric mobility or the production of renewable energies on a local scale, among others, are the great challenge facing the electricity grid in the coming decades.

“The main challenge is to adapt the network to the needs of energy generation and consumption. In a few years we will go from having high voltage power plants to a local microgeneration in which renewables will be the protagonists. All of this will be much more efficient, but we have to manage to make it compatible with the demand, ”says Casas.

A key concept of all this transformation will be the power grid flexibility. The model is evolving from a unidirectional generation from producer to consumer, making the latter an active actor with a model of distributed generation in which small producers grow and consumers can pour electricity into the grid. All this entails a improvement in the efficiency of electrical resources and a better distribution and use of energy. For example, in a neighborhood with a concentration of photovoltaic panels, at a time of high production in solar hours, but low consumption because there is no one at home, the surplus could be redirected to the grid. This not only allows for better resource utilization, but can also avoid network overload problems.

The electricity grid will play an essential role in the coming years. The digital transformation of the network will be essential in the electrification process of the economy. In the coming years Endesa will deepen this process and to 2023 is expected to reach 16,000 automated installations. The distributor is also immersed in a global digitization program of all its processes through technologies such as Big data, machine learning, augmented reality, artificial intelligence, robotics or the deployment of IOT sensors with the aim of improving the efficiency of the electrical network.

Endesa’s Quality Plan

Endesa, through e-distribution, its distribution subsidiary, will allocate between the next three years 1,200 million euros to improve and develop the electricity grid, and thus give a higher quality to its 12.3 million customers. Among the main objectives of the electricity supplier are the improvement of digitization, reliability, resilience, flexibility and efficiency of its extensive electricity network. All of this will be done with the decarbonisation of the economy in mind and the electrification of the economy that will take place over the next few decades as a sustainable alternative for development.

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