Develop the Transmission System to Integrate Renewable Energy

- By:

Courtesy of Marcus Evans

There are a multitude of developments within the regulatory realm that will greatly affect the future of transmission expansion. This conference will review the numerous regulatory issues that have a large impact on transmission systems across the country, as well as on interregional planning and integration of renewables. This conference will share best practices and strategies to utilize regional transmission networks and infrastructures and better plan future transmission projects.

Julius Pataky, Vice President of Asset Investment Management, T&D joined BC Hydro in 2004 and held a number of leadership positions in asset management and system planning.  He was appointed Vice President, System Planning & Asset Management for BCTC in July 2006.  Effective July 2010, Julius was appointed Vice President, Asset Investment Management, Transmission & Distribution for BC Hydro.

Pataky will be a key speaker at the upcoming marcus evans Transmission Planning & Expansion West Conference from March 22-23, 2011 in San Francisco, CA.

1. What are the key issues facing transmission planning and expansion do you feel?

 Transmission is faced with unprecedented challenges of increasing capacity to maintain an aging infrastructure, connecting renewable resources and responding to reliability and security concerns as we become ever more dependent on an electricity grid to conduct business and live our lives in the evolving information age.

 All of these factors are putting more and more cost pressure on our companies as we strive to respond to these issues.  As asset managers, we are being challenged to come up with more innovative solutions to respond to these infrastructure needs.

2. How are transmission infrastructures being prepared for the new generation?

Transmission companies are evaluating the impact of renewable generation on their systems.  This provides both opportunities and challenges. The opportunities to expand and build out the system as well as opportunities to now address and undertake upgrades on the system.  Frequently, the new generation brings with it new control requirements, which although perhaps a challenge to address, also provide the means for additional system and asset information which is valuable for future asset decisions. 

Deploying smarter grid technologies for gathering data and controlling the assets and systems, as well as information technologies for enabling better asset management decisions, will allow us to more fully leverage the value that this system information brings.  Our transmission systems will become more complex as we deal with managing these intermittent renewable resources, which means applying more technology, such as synchrophaser measurement, for greater monitoring control capability and more comprehensive telecommunications systems to both support and control as much as the smart grid data needs.

 3. What are the important areas to be factored into an asset management plan?

The key area of concern is to have asset management plans, which are sufficiently integrated and respond to the aging asset needs, while also responding to the growth, upgrade and expansion requirements of the system.  Frequently, the sustainment or refurbishment programs are carried out somewhat in isolation.   Having highly integrated projects, which address all business needs of aging infrastructure, expansion and system upgrades provides for more efficient use of capital investment and thus a lower rate impact to customers.   A related item of course is developing a financing plan and rate strategy to support the asset management plan.

Given the work volume, which the coming investment requirements are creating, adequate resource planning is also a concern.  The use of outside resources is a must if a company is to accomplish its objectives. However, many transmission companies are in similar positions, so we will be calling on the same resources to accomplish our programs.  Similarly, the internal skills and resources and scalability of its business processes are concerns if a company is to undertake and complete an aggressive asset management plan.

4. What are the considerations in deciding on the correct life expectancies for assets? What are the dangers associated with getting this wrong? Is there a notable example of how lessons have been learned from mistakes in the past?

The correct life expectancies for assets can be determined with the information at hand: asset condition and the past experience of failures on the asset.  The history of failures is either available internally or within the utility sector.  Determining optimal replacement rate is more challenging however.  Understanding the factors that influence asset condition and forecasting asset deterioration, the criticality of the asset to the company’s business value and the expected long term cost of operating, maintaining vs. replacing the asset all influence the projected life and replacement. 

Given the long life of many assets on a transmission system, it is important that such an analysis be undertaken for the long term to ensure that appropriate resource plans; both investment funding and skills are taken into account.  Given the age of many of our systems, a fifty-year view is probably appropriate. 

Getting the long term expected life correct is important on many dimensions.  Avoiding outages as a result of equipment failure, thus ensuring reliability is expected from our customers and regulators.  Even if system redundancy maintains service, customers may be more vulnerable to an outage during a prolong repair period.  More frequently, emergency replacements are more costly than planned replacements.  Even under a planned replacement program, given the number of asset units requiring replacement, it is conceivable that a company could not keep up with the replacement program and maintain service to customers; it is becoming increasingly difficult to get planned outages to complete work. 

5. How is the general public is being impacted by aging infrastructure? 

I mentioned earlier that refurbishing the aging infrastructure will require increased invest in the existing system.  This will create cost pressure for utilities and thus have a direct impact on customer rates. 

We are also seeing increasingly less and less acceptance of transmission infrastructure, even in situations where the infrastructure and right-of-way already exists.  This makes it more difficult to refurbish and upgrade existing systems.  Communities are expecting transmission infrastructures to be located in more remote areas, which are becoming fewer and fewer, and society is expecting us to build the infrastructures with a smaller impact on the environment.  Stakeholders, particularly those directly impacted by the transmission infrastructure, must participate in the project review and approvals processes if we are to be successful in meeting our business challenges. 

The marcus evans Transmission Planning & Expansion West Conference is taking place from March 22-23, 2011 in San Francisco, CA.

For further information contact:
Michele Westergaard
Marketing/PR Coordinator
Marcus evans
312-540-3000 ext. 6625

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