HomeDigitalizationABB believes digital technology will gradually transform utilities

ABB believes digital technology will gradually transform utilities

ABB believes its new digital offering will do much to enable power generation operators adapt to the changing environment in which utilities now find themselves.

The company launched its Ability Collaborative Operations platform for power generation applications in Genoa, Italy last week and Power Engineering International spoke to Susan Peterson, Digital Lead, and Kevin Kosisko, Managing Director, ABB Power Generation about some of the thinking around the rationale for the technology.
ABB Ability Collaborative Operations Center
Driven from a new ABB Ability Collaborative Operations Center in Genoa, Italy, the new operating model enables leading power generation and water companies to improve operations and maintenance using digital technologies to collaborate with dedicated, co-located operations experts.

The center delivers information insights that can increase customers’ profitability and productivity through better asset performance, higher safety and security, reduced risk and lower costs.

A statement by the company said, it is not enough simply to attach a sensor to a machine and transmit the data to the cloud.

“The value lies in transforming the data into actionable information that helps customers derive maximum value from digitalizing their assets”, it reads, and ABB expressed its confidence in the capability of its installed base, expertise and Ability platform to facilitate that optimization.

Their latest offering is particularly relevant given the growing proliferation of decentralized energy actors in the marketplace.

“We are in a period of transition and moving from a position of more vertically integrated, to the more decentralized markets or tiered markets. The technology that helps us with that transition is really needed right now,” Peterson told Power Engineering International, by way of explanation of the contextual need for the technology.

“We believe that is a trend we will continue to see and particularly around some specific use cases. We are very fortunate to have developed a virtual power pool technology.”

“We started out helping customers on islands ” such as in Aruba where we are basically managing between that portfolio of renewables, demand and conventional. If you look at traditional dispatch models, they are very chunky with big blocks of power, big blocks of demand, and harder to run in a real-time context.”

“I think that the virtual power tool solution is really important as a way to integrate that decentralised and conventional power together. We are excited about the trend in bringing in more renewables and storage together and at the same time we need the main capacity role that our conventional power plants play.”

From a trickle, awareness is growing about the benefits embracing digital technology can bring for generators.

“If you look at Enel and their annual statements they say they are going to grow their installed base by 3 per cent in the next few years using digital technologies. It’s something we are seeing from leaders in our customers’ companies. They are driving this and à‚ driving their future and they have recognised the à‚ need to change the way they are acting.”

In terms of the perception that these types of digital offerings haven’t taken off as quickly as would be expected, Kosisko said it’s important to remember just how new this approach is.

“The discussion around using cloud based analytics has really only got momentum in the last three to four years and cloud based analytics into power generation probably just in the last two years. So, it’s an adoption curve that’s slow but I wouldn’t lose sight of the fact that we are still at very early stages here.”

“I think there will be more adoption as we move forward, and I think there is a lot of value to be had. These companies, a lot of them are in challenging positions and sometimes this isn’t the most obvious thing to do. However, I am convinced as more and more cases become available and more companies come to understand, see and take advantage of the return that you’re going to see a higher adoption rate. It will start to get more exponential down the road.”

This story is an extract from a larger feature you can read in Power Engineering International Magazine in early summer. You can subscribe to our digital magazine here.