EMS enters Kazakhstan network

Kevin Corbley,
Corbley Communications,

Kazakhstan’s state utility is probing methods to enhance operation of its beleaguered power network. KEGOC is introducing an energy management system that will share vital information between regional grids, preparing the country for a competitive market.

Figure 1. Kazakhstan’s split transmission and ditribution geography will benefit from the propsed SCADA system
Click here to enlarge image

Kazakhstan is automating its electric power management and monitoring capabilities. Within the next two months, the Kazakhstan Electric Grid Operating Company (KEGOC) plans to award a contract for the implementation of an energy management system (EMS) and enhanced supervisory control and data acquisition (Scada) technology.

EMS implementation is a key component of an intensive effort to upgrade the aging infrastructure in Kazakhstan’s electric power transmission and distribution system. Installation of the EMS closely follows significant enhancements to the nation’s substations and will be complemented by communication improvements throughout the KEGOC power network.


Funding for the EMS project will come in the form of a loan from the World Bank. Prior to agreeing to fund the project, the World Bank requested that a consulting firm experienced in utility automation and energy market development create a conceptual design and implementation plan. In coordination with the World Bank, the US Trade and Development Agency invited several qualified consulting firms to bid on a contract to perform the design and implementation study and prepare the request for proposal (RFP) to carry out the proposed work. Kema Consulting of Fairfax, Virginia, won the contract and initiated the study in March 2000.

“In many ways, KEGOC is in a similar situation to many North American electric utilities,” said Nader Farah, Kema Consulting’s senior vice president of International Operations. “They need to reduce outages and improve the efficiency of their production and transmission so they can increase the bottom line.”

But unlike other power companies, Farah added, KEGOC is trying to accomplish these things with Soviet-era equipment in a service territory twice the size of Texas while moving towards a competitive power market.


Kazakhstan’s size combined with its geography, which includes steppe regions in the north and mountainous desert in the south, presents major challenges to power transmission. “The distances are extreme, and the temperatures are brutal,” said Jim Oswald, senior principal consultant for Kema Consulting’s International Projects Group.

KEGOC operates three separate major electric grids. The western grid near the Caspian Sea is independent of the rest of the country and is actually comprised of three smaller systems that tie into the main Russian network. The northern Kazak grid links with the Russian Ural and Siberian systems with only a single tie into a southern KEGOC grid. The links with Russian networks date from the Soviet era. At that time, a government-controlled organization ran the electric power infrastructure in the republic. KEGOC grew out of this centralized utility after independence was declared in 1991 and the Kazak utility is now a quasi-government organization evolving into an independent business.

“The Soviet Union was very skilled at high-voltage,” commented Oswald. “Even so, it’s common for some of these transmission lines, which are rated up to 1150 kV, to have jumps in losses exceeding 300 MW between night and day due to icing.”

Electricity is generated by 15 coal-burning power plants located throughout the country and a few hydroelectric facilities in the northeast. Approximately 100 substations operate across the nation. All of the generation equipment is at least 30 years old, and all components that wear out must be custom manufactured.

There are nine regional dispatch centres (RDCs) spread around the country including an RDC facility that doubles as the national dispatch centre (NDC) in Almaty, the former capital in southeastern Kazakhstan. RDCs are responsible for managing and monitoring the network in their regions and managing generation dispatch functions. The NDC oversees nationwide generation dispatch and coordinates the RDCs.

SCADA systems

During four trips to Kazakhstan to assess the status of energy management systems. Each of the nine RDCs monitors its section of the grid with an independent Scada system. Scada monitors watts, VARs, amps, volts, and circuit breaker positions and communicates with remote terminals in the substations via very low speed (200-300 bits/s) power line carrier circuits. At such low speeds, the protocols had to be very simple, but they transfer information with a high level of security, which was the objective.

Figure 2. The EMS will monitor incoming data from the eight regional Scada systems
Click here to enlarge image

“Each RDC can communicate with its substations, but they can’t share information directly with control centres in other grids,” said Oswald. “Enabling communication throughout the country at all KEGOC facilities became a priority in our conceptual design.”

RDCs share information with the NDC via voice and data connections. The RDCs receive telemetry from substations and generating plants and then forward this data to the NDC, which is responsible for nationwide generation dispatch and coordination of the RDC. The capacity of the data transmission lines severely limits the volume of telemetry that can be shared.

As Kema Consulting drew up its plans for the automation, it worked closely with two telecommunications consulting firms that had been contracted by the World Bank to upgrade communications in the KEGOC network. Kema Consulting supplied the telecom consultants with details on how much bandwidth would be required for the control centres and substations to exchange data based on the EMS implementation plan.

“In order to maintain the responsiveness of the EMS system we envision, Kema Consulting recommended at least 6000 bits/s transmission rates in the telecommunications network established among the NDC, RDCs, and substations,” commented Oswald. “And while 6 kbits/s may not sound like much in today’s world of T1 lines, it represents a 20-fold increase in the existing capacity.”

EMS design

Due to limited project funding, Kema Consulting had to devise an automation plan that would introduce new technology when necessary and utilize existing systems when possible. The major decision was how the EMS should be integrated with the nine control centres. Five configurations were proposed, and KEMA Consulting examined each based on its cost to implement, operate, and maintain. It became evident that costs related to networked computing and telecommunications would drive the plan selection. The five configurations covered two basic EMS strategies – centralized or independent management.

“Ultimately, we recommended implementation of a single centralized EMS that shares information with the Scada systems at the regional level,” noted Oswald. “It’s similar in design to the existing system but with greater functionality and faster data transmission.”

The implementation calls for installing the EMS at the Almaty NDC. From there, the EMS will monitor incoming data from the eight regional Scada systems. Plans for the regional centres involve installing virtually identical but separate Scada systems. Each will operate independently, but there will be significant two-way communication with the EMS. The design specifies that commercial Scada products will be selected and installed. RDC personnel spend an excessive amount of time building replacement components and writing new computer code to maintain the homegrown systems.

Each new Scada system will overlap slightly with its neighbouring Scada. This will enable centres to identify and anticipate problems outside their borders that may spread into their control area. Each regional Scada will collect data from its section of the grid for relay back to the centralized EMS. The EMS will process the data and pipe management information back to the regional centres as needed.

Although the EMS will be customized to meet the needs of the KEGOC network, the system will perform two standard energy management functions. It will monitor the power needs of the system every two to four seconds and send commands to the generators that must fulfil the demand. The EMS will also maintain power system security by examining the Scada observations, applying mathematical models, and creating a valid power flow solution.

The new Scada will have the advantage of better sensor data coming from the substations. In a related World Bank project that began in 2000, Saskatchewan Power of Canada upgraded nearly half of its facilities by installing new metering equipment and protective relay devices. This upgraded substation technology will feed more information to the EMS than was previously possible and the updates will be transmitted every two to ten seconds.

“The new substation meters will give KEGOC a more accurate measurement of where its electricity is being used and how the generation facilities are handling the demand,” said Oswald.

Study completion

Once Kema Consulting had completed the conceptual design plan of EMS and Scada components in December 2000, the firm embarked on writing the implementation plan that established a budget and schedule for installing the systems.

The third and final phase of the consulting contract for Kema Consulting involved writing the technical specifications for the RFP that the World Bank released in early 2002. The World Bank received proposals from five companies and has spent several months reviewing each for qualification and merit.

“We expect to sign the implementation contract this fall and begin the work immediately,” said Dejan Ostojic of the World Bank. Actual implementation of the EMS is expected to require 28 months. Once the EMS and Scada have been installed and are functioning, KEGOC will be able to operate its power generation capabilities more efficiently and assess actual electrical costs for users more accurately.

“Ultimately, KEGOC will have greater control over its power system and know where its power is flowing,” said Farah. “These are the first important steps in creating a profitable business that will prevail in the competitive electricity market that is coming to Kazakhstan.”

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