Lessons from CIGRE - The importance of extending asset life


Editor's note: Brett Sargent of LumaSense Technologies is an industry veteran who recently spent time at two sessions sponsored by CIGRE, the Paris-based international council on large electric systems. One session was in Paris, the other in Montreal. When he told me he had noticed some important new themes there, I asked him to share his insights with SGN readers. Please use the comment form at the bottom of the page to agree or disagree. -- Jesse Berst



By Brett Sargent


The overarching need to update assets and the grid was a central theme at two recent CIGRE sessions which gathered attendees to discuss the current state of smart grid. Attendance was strong at both conferences. Attendees focused on learning about the latest technologies and philosophies on rolling out an updated, modernized system. Here are three takeaways that stood out to me:


1. The action is in the middle

In the early days of grid modernization, the general focus was on end points - the actual side of the customer premise. Since those early days, the smart grid has evolved from Advanced Meter Reading (AMR) and Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI).


Of course, we now realize that the smart grid is no longer just the end point. Much occurs between generation and the end point. And the industry is slowly but surely looking at the middle and figuring out how to make it smarter. This is a great improvement, since such a focus had largely been lacking in developed countries where smart grid was viewed as simply the deployment of smart meters. Asian utilities, for example, tended to have a better approach on the actual grid versus the end point. Now it appears that the industry at large is beginning to get on the same page. 

3. Extending asset life is essential

On the plus side, while there is a downturn in new projects and deployments, there is an uptick in users at these conferences looking for solutions that manage and extend the life of their assets (such as transformers, load tap changers and circuit breakers). From a vendor perspective, much of the focus at the CIGRE conferences was on asset management and CBM products and solutions. These technologies have started to undergo a two-pronged transition:


1.     Cost effectiveness - with the growing need for asset management and CBM, the price point has to be right to allow for system-wide installations. If customers cannot afford to buy and install new assets, they need solutions that can be installed across their entire fleet to extend its life until new infrastructure components can be installed. An overall lower total cost of ownership is necessary to allow for this wide-scale deployment.


2.     Integration - there is an overwhelming trend to move towards standardization in system design and communications. Any devices being installed must have the ability to integrate with current and future infrastructures. 


Past CIGRE conferences have showcased product bells and whistles. Now we are seeing the inevitable commoditization of those products as they are deployed on a broader scale. Products are now better built for integration and are set at a price point needed by customers for full adaptation. In short, as the smart grid continues its evolution it will become increasingly important to extend the life of assets, whether they are new installations or extensions of the current infrastructure. Although the CIGRE conferences showed the smart grid is on the right track, there is still plenty of opportunity for updates to the existing aged grid.


Brett Sargent is Vice President/General Manager, Products and Solutions at LumaSense Technologies, Inc. He has over 20 years of experience working in various leadership roles in engineering, supply chain, manufacturing, quality, marketing and global sales with DuPont, Lockheed Martin, Exelon Nuclear and General Electric, where he was Global Sales Leader for the GE Energy T&D Products division. He holds a BS in Electrical Engineer from Widener University, an MS in Nuclear Engineer from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and an MBA from Georgia State University.


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