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REPORT: Mentality toward digitization may be holding the transmission industry back

image credit: © Turker Minaz | Dreamstime.com

We are in the midst of the digital revolution in almost all fronts, from the way we watch television to the way we pay our employees. But in no industry is the digital revolution more crucial to its future success than the energy industry.

As the use, production and demand of renewable energy continues to skyrocket, prices remain in flux and the need for flexibility grows, transmission and grid systems need to seamlessly share information, most of which is happening through digital means. Sharing information allows these systems to cut costs and remain efficient, but also requires—for longtime industry players—the integration of new systems and makes them more vulnerable to cyberattacks and hacks. The benefits and the vulnerabilities that makes it both necessary and frightening has made digitization its own economy.

Industry experts have predicted solar and wind sources will produce 36,000 terawatt hours of energy per year—more than 20x today’s production. This expected rise in renewable energy will be crucial to cutting carbon emissions and the transmission and distribution industry play a vital role. The renewable transition will require massive investment in transmission networks and innovations to respond to demand to balance the fluctuating nature of wind and solar power.

However, according to a new report from the European corporation, DNV GL, the power transmission industry, specifically, faces barriers to digitization. The report surveyed nearly 2,000 industry professionals from across the globe about digitization in the transmission and distribution system sector. Apparently, mentality toward digitization may be holding the industry back from digital advancement, a crucial piece to meeting and carrying forward the renewable energy transition underway. Only 39% of transmission system operators have digitization as central part of their strategy.

Part of this could be from fear related to digitization and the integration of a new system, according to the report. Although data sharing within the industry is necessary for efficiency as the industry becomes more digital, 45% of respondents in the DNV GL survey reported that fear of data sharing is a barrier to digitization. This is where necessary investments in cybersecurity come in, which, as we talked about several times on Energy Central, cybersecurity is a growing priority in the digital utility world—76% of industry stakeholders that cybersecurity was the technology most impacting their work. Peace of mind is everything.

Digitization requires new skills, new systems and a new mindset, however, those in the industry believe it’s these necessities that keep the industry from embracing the move toward digital. Roughly 40% said lack of a digital mindset is keeping their company from advancement, while 83% of the stakeholders said the industry needs more employees with system integration skills. The digital age is always producing new and improved systems and having staff that can seamlessly integrate those updates is vital to the longevity of the enterprise.

“Although the technology and ambition might be there,” the report reads, “unless you can persuade the entire organization about the benefits of digitization, you’re fighting a losing battle.”

Transmission and distribution systems will play a central role as the world continues to rely more on renewable energy sources. As the digital revolution continues, it will be the responsibility of these system operators need not be left behind, and even lead the way on some digital advancements. However, according to this report’s findings, it will take a necessary shift in mindset.

"In order to meet the demands of a rapidly changing energy system,” the report reads, “the T&D industry needs to lead the way by embracing new digital technology, upskill their employees and encourage a new generation of T&D engineers to enter the industry and ensure that a lack of digital mindset doesn’t hold it back."

Christopher Neely's picture

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Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Feb 25, 2020 9:49 pm GMT

Transmission and distribution systems will play a central role as the world continues to rely more on renewable energy sources. As the digital revolution continues, it will be the responsibility of these system operators need not be left behind, and even lead the way on some digital advancements. 

Agreed that the T&D organizations will have to be leaders-- though truth be told any part of the chain that doesn't consider its leadership in cybersecurity important is risking becoming the weak link!

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