Transforming the electric power industry with digital technology

Cloud computing, AI, and 5G are powering up the transformative efforts of many electric power companies around the world.

Facing disruption in the sector, many electric power companies are looking to technological innovations that can sustain their business for the long term.

20200716-093535espace-1.jpg

The electric power sector has seen unprecedented change in the past decade, with renewal energy sources being added to the mix while digital technologies have changed the way energy is generated, supplied, and consumed by businesses and consumers.

The coming years are going to be just as transformative, as many energy suppliers look to new technologies such as cloud computing, artificial intelligence (AI), and 5G to power up their transformative efforts.

These technologies can help them overcome the disruptive forces that are set to hit the industry. Key considerations include business continuity and power grid security, as well as response time to emergencies such as the current pandemic. Additionally, global warming and frequent extreme weather conditions bring greater operational risks to grid services.

The global electric power industry needs to consider how to adapt to new trends. How can grids detect security issues in real time and respond quickly? How can they help to make better use of clean energy and reduce carbon emissions? How can energy networks match the rapidly expanding charging pile network and achieve efficient management?

These are not questions that a single solution can answer. Certainly, the old way of doing things is not going to work with mounting challenges in the years ahead. So, now may be the best time to consider change.

That was what global customers, partners, industry elites, and thought leaders did at the 7th Huawei Global Power Summit Online on July 8, when they explored how to reshape the electric power industry.

Indeed, an increasing number of electric power companies identify their digital transformation strategies as their priority. At the summit, Huawei and industry leaders illustrated the importance of 5G, AI, big data, and cloud computing, which were demonstrated at the online event.

Putting the smarts into energy

One example of change is the smart grid. Instead of manually checking transmission lines, which is costly and inefficient, energy companies can make use of smart technologies to better monitor their transmission lines remotely.

In projects with customers in China and elsewhere, Huawei has successfully implemented AI modules into equipment such as cameras and drones, which report back the condition of the power lines. This way, the cost and time needed for manual transmission lines inspection is reduced greatly.

China Southern Power Grid (CSG) is one electric power player that is early in the game. It understands power distribution networks and users require power grid communication that features wide connectivity, high bandwidth, low latency, high reliability, and fast deployment.

These features ensure intelligent power distribution and metering, and facilitate the development of smart homes and the Internet of Vehicles (IoV). To meet these new demands, it looked to Huawei's 5G expertise.

In particular, Huawei's advanced 5G slicing technology enables end-to-end communication of smart grids, ensuring secure and reliable power distribution networks as well as improved efficiency.

This has made the newly built network visible, measurable and controllable to the operator. In this joint project, CSG, 3Gpp, China Mobile, and Huawei co-created the formulation of 5G that is suitable for such usage in the electricity sector.

New technologies come into play

5G is just one solution that is making a difference in the electric power sector. Today, Huawei's solutions also seamlessly integrate Internet of Things (IoT), optical, IP, cloud, big data, and AI technologies into power systems.

Together with partners, Huawei has launched smart service solutions, such as AI-powered grid inspection and distribution IoT that cover power generation, transmission, transformation, distribution, and consumption. These enable comprehensive sensing, interconnection, and service intelligence of various power terminals.

For example, the State Grid Corporation of China (SGCC) worked with Huawei to build a digital platform, IoT platform, and cloud that reduced the time it takes to collect and store data from four hours to 30 minutes for its Henan branch.

Once again, embedded AI modules in cameras and drones are used to remotely monitor power transmission lines and detect faults. Thanks to this, the Shenzhen Power Supply Bureau reduced its grid inspection time from 20 days to two hours. The time to capture images has been cut from hours to minutes. It has also achieved over 90% image analysis accuracy.

Make the leap now

To date, Huawei has worked with over 190 electric power companies worldwide, including 10 of the industry's top 20, to implement digital transformation. Huawei's solutions are widely used by electric power companies such as the Saudi Electricity Company, Turkish Electricity Transmission Corporation, Provincial Electricity Authority of Thailand, SGCC, and CSG.

The expertise is needed in a sector that has often been conservative in terms of undertaking big transformative change. That can no longer be the strategy going forward now, with disruptions coming to the sector.

For many electric power companies, change could mean taking a leap forward; for others, it may deepening their already ongoing transformation efforts. The good news is that the technology is ready, so a right partner with the innovation and industry knowledge will enable the sector to confidently meet tomorrow's challenges.