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Energy Central Power Perspectives™: Welcome Jean-Pierre Girard, New Expert in the Digital Utility Community

image credit: Energy Central

The age of the digital utility used to be a futuristic-sounding promise, but today it really has become a reality. It’s not all green and covered in 1’s and 0’s like the Matrix as some literature a decade ago may have had you believe, but rather it’s about the implementation of smart, digital tools across the grid in a way that brings information, communication, and reliability to the forefront.

When approaching the digital utility as an idea that’s bringing such assets to the grid, there still is, however, plenty of that futuristic-sounding technology and exciting new applications that require the input of innovators and thought leaders in the area. Jean-Pierre Girard is the President of HEXACODE Solutions and working in this rapidly-moving digital utility arena is his forte, so we’ve brough him into the highly respected Energy Central Network of Experts within our Digital Utility Group.

As Jean-Pierre starts to impart his pearls of wisdom to the Energy Central community as one of our experts, he kindly agreed to participate in the official Energy Central Power Perspective ‘Welcome New Expert Interview Series’ so fellow Community Members could know his areas of expertise and know where his experience is derived:

Matt Chester: Welcome to the Energy Central Community, Jean-Pierre, and thanks for joining the Network of Experts. Can you please share a quick background of who you are, what your role is in the utility sector, and how you got to that point for our readers?

Jean-Pierre Girard: I graduated with a degree in electrical engineering and spent the first part of my career in the power division at Siemens in Canada in application engineering, field service followed by corporate responsibility in product safety, process improvement, quality management, and business assessments. I was later transferred to Germany as part of a global Siemens e-business transformation, during which I was responsible for developing a supply chain reference model applied to the e-business context.

On my return in Canada, I focused my activities in business development. I took over the business relationship of Siemens with Hydro Quebec and the engineering consulting firm SNC-Lavalin. The last 10 years have been devoted entirely to asset management, predominantly on the creation of a real-time software solutions for critical infrastructure.

 

MC: As President of Hexacode Solutions, you spend a lot of time thinking about and implementing solutions for asset management. Can you comment on what the current state of asset management is across North American utilities? What grade does the industry earn at this point in time, and do you think they're putting in the right work to improve that score?

JG: Asset management has always been at the center of utilities business concerns. Utilities are capital intensive and reliability is an everyday challenge. Developments over the past decade associated with decarbonization solutions and the potential of the Internet of Things (IoT) are accelerating the adoption of new approaches to improve asset management. The current context (influenced by, among other things, distributed generation, smart meters, and the aging of equipment fleets in generation, transmission, and distribution) opens the door to an overhaul of the way information is generated and the way it is analyzed. Utilities, large and small, are faced with these challenges and few solutions can efficiently and economically tackle this new environment. Decision support tools, in both network management and asset lifecycle activities, are becoming increasingly integrated and this is where we position our real-time asset management technology. 

MC: The utility sector is getting more digital by the day, which introduces vast new opportunities but also risks that were not there before. How do you think utility decision-makers should be addressing risk management in the face of risks that were unfamiliar or even non-existent just a few short years ago?

JG: The energy field has been exposed to the emergence of digitalization over a period of 50 years. The transition has been much more gradual than we might think. One has only to consider the transition of electromechanical protective relays to digital relays. Challenges in terms of software updates, training, communication protocols, cybersecurity, interoperability, and reliability have been gradually managed. There are more cybersecurity issues today, but the level maturity of the industry regarding the integration of digital technologies and the expertise developed over the years significantly reduce these risks.

 

MC: As a leader in the digital solutions field, how do you stay ahead of the trends, especially now that the utility industry is finally moving at a more rapid speed than ever before?

JG: We have identified a domain where the combination of telecommunication software expertise and asset management can make a difference in the accuracy of asset information. Our real-time condition assessment and predictive technology takes advantage of the latest software developments to meet design requirements in terms of scalability and performance. We know that asset intensive organizations are developing their own degradations algorithms. The real challenge is to apply them to millions of assets and components in real-time.

 

MC: As you get more involved with the Energy Central community, what do you think is the value you'll be able to bring to the community? And what aspects of importance are you getting out of being a member?

JG: Collaboration is expressed in our industry in several ways. Knowledge is shared through periodicals, technical papers, conferences, or by pooling research efforts. As a member, I would like to share what led us to develop over the past five years our approach to solve asset management information issues and learn about complementary solutions. Our technology creates value because it extends the life of assets while supporting performance and reliability. This is achieved by integrating data from existing IT/OT platforms, processing it, and sharing results. In a sense, collaboration is embedded in our DNA.

 

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Please join me in thanking Jean-Pierre Girard for his time in this interview and for his accepted role as a Digital Utility expert in the Energy Central community. When you see Jean-Pierre engaging with content around Energy Central, be sure to say hi, ask a question, and make him feel welcome!

 

The other expert interviews that we’ve completed in this series can be read here, and if you are interested in becoming an expert then you can reach out to me or you can apply here.

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