May 28, 2015

Keeping the lights on throughout the Nordics

Tuomas Räsänen

Lead Product Manager, Tieto

As we've grown more reliant on electricity, power outages have become increasingly problematic. Our energy dependence is inescapable—our homes and workplaces brim with electricity-hungry devices. Could you live a week without energy? Who would do your work? (Certainly not your computers, smartphones and other gadgets). We assume electrical power will always be available, so we only notice its absence.

In the Nordics, we expect to receive consistent electrical power. Despite our remarkably high service accessibility, some interruptions are unavoidable.

Managing unavoidable power outages

It is impossible to prevent weather-related outages. Weather (especially in the Nordics) will occasionally down power lines through rain, wind, ice and snow—elsewhere, tsunamis and monsoons wreak havoc. Modern technology has enabled security related outages, though few if any have occurred. And of course, there will always be miscellaneous outages produced by everything from human error, errant animals and random, unforeseeable events.

Here are a few ways we at Tieto think you can mitigate the effects of such outages.

Renewable energy

The future of green energy is today. Last year, over 25% of Germany's electricity came from renewable sources like solar and wind. So why aren't all nations leveraging these technologies? The current boom of biomass based power generation will probably be part of future energy portfolios. Isolated distribution networks, self-healing networks enabled by automation and local power generation may be the keys to keeping the grid and energy storages powered.

Consumer energy production

Today, consumers can achieve uninterrupted power by generating their own. Solar panels and home batteries buffer individual households from outages while enabling the sale of electricity back to the grid. Soon, these forward-thinking consumers will also enjoy cheap energy—by 2025, solar is predicted to be the cheapest power source. These incredible technologies are integral to our future, though secure energy delivery will remain a necessity. Not all households can produce energy, and even the best home energy systems periodically fail.

Reliable energy in the Nordics

Energy distribution systems must become more reliable while harnessing consumer-generated power, but there are other cost considerations.
For example, 14.5% of the medium voltage network in Finland is comprised of underground cables—while 120 000 kilometres of overhead power lines remain exposed to the elements. Why not exclusively use underground cables? They are 2.5 times more expensive than overhead lines. Accordingly, overhead lines are widely used where nothing can fall on them—beside roadways and within open spaces.

Foremost, network reliability hinges on properly managing service interruptions. Preventative measures are important, but preparing for outages is equally vital.

Preparation

  • Devise efficient plans to repair power outages. Network management services offered by Tieto can prepare your business for power outages before they happen.
  • Anticipate the sources of power shortages (including cyber threats) through power outage exercises, and develop channels to notify the affected customers.

Reaction (make a coherent plan!)

  • Promptly assess disruptions.
  • Prioritise, optimise and broadcast your findings to consumers and your team. (National laws typically require that consumers are notified of powers outages.) Use IT to support these communications.
  • Make certain that your IT still works in offline mode. It is vital that IT infrastructure is unaffected by power outages, and modern cloud services can be a part of this solution.

Followups

  • Assess the incident. Were your preparations and response sufficient?
  • Learn from your mistakes. Consider the alterations that would have protected your business under the outage by determining where, how and why your measures failed. Did your repairs exceed the time estimates? And if so, why? Did your response proceed in the correct order? Should assessments have been made from helicopters? The rearview mirror can be a powerful tool to mitigate future problems; use all of your BI assets to analyse the incidents.

Perhaps our energy dependence blinds us to the potential for power outages, but they are simply the cost of all our modern conveniences. We at Tieto want to help you resolve reliability issues and advance the energy industry for businesses and consumers alike. Infrastructure will always require improvements—our reliance on electricity demands that we consider our energy infrastructure first.

Tuomas works as a Product Manager at Tieto. He is responsible for solution portfolio for Distribution Service Operators. Together with our clients, he is developing reliable energy distribution.

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