Maintenance Crew Upskilling for Digital Substations: Exclusive Interview with Javier Figuera Pozuelo of Red Electrica de Espana - [an Energy Central Power Perspectives™ Interview]

Posted to Energy Central in the Grid Professionals Group
image credit: Javier Figuera Pozuelo
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Energy Analyst Chester Energy and Policy

Official Energy Central Community Manager of Generation and Energy Management Networks. Matt is an energy analyst in Orlando FL (by way of Washington DC) working as an independent energy...

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  • Nov 13, 2019

On grids across the world, substations are making the digital conversion in masses. The advantages of digital substations to increase the abilities and security of the power grid make this evolution a necessary and exciting one, but it also comes with a large amount of necessary preparations and work.

The need to complete this work in the most optimal and efficient way is critical, and that’s why so many industry professionals will be gathering in Berlin at the end of November for the Digital Substations 2019 Conference on Accelerating the Mass Roll-out of Digital Substations to Maximise Grid Visibility, Reliability and Security. One of the key topics sure to be discussed at this gathering of the minds is the need for utilities and utility-adjacent companies to catch their employees up to these digital substations via training and education. In particular, those concerned about this topic should be sure to seek out Javier Figuera Pozuelo of Red Electrica de Espana. Javier will be presenting at the Digital Substation 2019 Conference with his talk entitled “Maintenance Crew Upskilling – defining the range of skills required of maintenance crews as the deployment of digital substations gain momentum and developing an inhouse training programme to support their needs.”

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If you can’t wait until the conference or you, unfortunately, won’t be able to attend yourself, you’re in luck: Javier agreed to answer some questions of mine ahead of time for the Energy Central community!

Matt Chester: To start and provide those reading some context, can you share a bit about your experience and how you got involved in the area of digital substations? What is your role and what is the work you’re doing in the field these days?

Javier Pozuelo: I’ve been working in REE (Red Electrica De Espana), the Spanish TSO, for 18 years, mainly involved in protection and control design and engineering. I’ve always been active and participating in CIGRE and other working groups, as we in REE are deploying Digital Substation around our networks.

Currently, I’m working on preparing the next digital substation designs considering a whole life cycle approach. We’ll consider the new designs to be successful if our people (engineering, maintenance, and operation) are prepared enough to make the most of the possibilities that may arise in the Digital substation.


MC: You’re going to be presenting about how maintenance staff needs to be considered in the digital substation design process. Why do you think that this leap has not been made already widely in the industry? Where has the disconnect come from?

JP: As in every industrial process, the final user’s needs and requirements should be considered during the design process. In other words, you can design the most powerful system, but if you don’t know how to handle it, you won’t be able to make the most of it. As our systems are installed once, but they will be working for 15 to 20 years, efficiency will be obtained when balancing installation costs and O&M costs.

In conclusion, cultural aspects, those related to people, are as important as the technical solutions to be implemented. We need to train and listen to those ones who will be in charge of maintaining and operating those digital substations over those 15-20 years


MC: What are the main differences between the digital substations and traditional substations, and why has it taken so long for the benefits of the digital substation to be embraced?

JP: From my point of view, new skills are needed to work in a digital substation. Knowledge in communications, time synchronization, automation, software tools, etc. is relevant when managing a digital substation.

Current maintenance staff requires this knowledge and enough tools (different from the ones required in a traditional design) to handle a digital substation.

So, we can say that there are two main aspects that can explain this slow technological step forward:

  • Cultural issues, in knowledge, tools, and procedures to be adopted; and
  • Technological challenges, such as time synchronization dependency.


MC: What do you think is the single most important lesson you learned in your implementation process that you’d want others who are following in your steps to recognize?

JP: It is a very simple one: LISTEN and WORK TOGETHER with all the people involved or affected by the digital substation scenario.

In the end, everybody should go on the same boat.


MC: Are there any other topics you’re particularly excited to learn about and watch presentations on at the Digital Substation conference? Do you have any speakers you’re specifically eager to listen to?

JP: What I’m very interested in is to see the different Digital Substation REAL Implementations that are in process. What other colleagues are really doing? Is there anything new? What are the main challenges that they are facing?



If you’re interested in hearing more about Javier’s insights into training and upskilling for digital substations, be sure to check out his presentation at the Digital Substations 2019 conference, taking place from November 26 to 28 in Berlin. You can check out the agenda and register for the conference here.


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Hans Hyde's picture
Hans Hyde on Nov 13, 2019

Thanks Javier, good luck in your presentation. I very much agree it is as much cultural as technological.

Here in the US, with nearly 3000 distribution utilities (IOUs, Munis & Cooperative) some of which are under ISO/RTO, some of which are not, it seems we are advancing quickly [quicker?] at the TSO/BES level, while at the DSO/sub-transmission level digitization is advancing in fits and starts.

Do you feel the Energy Union through ENTSO-E is doing a better job filtering/disseminating knowledge and advancements down to the distribution level, unlocking much of what we're seeing at the transmission level?

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