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IS YOUR COMPANY TEAM ABLE TO CREATE INNOVATIONS FOR THE MARKET? Do you have a list of innovations that you would like to reach?

image credit: Image from https://images.app.goo.gl/Ex6sETTJCMjQZF4R8

My perception of the electric industry, at least in the Americas and Europe, is that in the last 15 years we have almost an  inexistence of innovations. The creation of knowledge that evolved a lot in the 60's to 90's stagnated after that. That is why much more is invested in commercial marketing than in R&D.

Innovation do not mean only developing a new equipment based on superconductivity or high-tech things like this.  Innovation depend on the stage of development of a country. Many years ago,  to explain this, I wrote the article  “Inducing & Assessing New Technologies for the Electric Industry of  Developing Countries”. Most of  those sentences are even more true in our current  moment. You will find the link in the article below.

 In a poor country, the improvement, for  undue operation by aging,  of an old expulsion type fuse used to protect distribution transformers  of aerial networks is much more useful than a high-tech fully automatized hybrid switchgear . A good reading to get a wider view on this is the  Brochure Cigrè “Contemporary Design of Low-Cost Substations in Developing Countries” Among the several chapters there is one about equipment  technologies and another, unique,  about “Training & Development of Substation Practitioners”

The dream of manufacturers of electrical equipment for substations is to develop or to improve a product that becomes, in the commercial market, a successful example of a new, cheaper, energy saving and creative product. I am used to hear from people ,in manufacturing companies, that they frequently have ideas for products that looks promising but does not know how to turn them into a commercial product. They mention that the two main barriers are:(a)to do the engineering calculations necessary to define the product conceptual project. (b)after the first step, how to deal with the high costs of the laboratory tests to develop the prototype

The differences between the companies, which overpassed these steps, are not their size or the money available to invest in new ideas. The difference is only in the attitude, vision and creativity of some 2 or 3 persons of the team. Everything starts in having a proper R&D view in the moment of hiring the team, particularly the engineers and designers. This can be achieved when there is a direction with a view in the medium-and long-term future. The most important thing, before all, is to have a basic  list of the potential  innovations that you would like to reach.

In the article in this link I describe details of the aspects of the theme. http://www.cognitor.com.br/AbleToCreateInnovations.pdf

Sergio Feitoza Costa's picture

Thank Sergio Feitoza for the Post!

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Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Apr 2, 2020 9:26 pm GMT

My perception of the electric industry, at least in the Americas and Europe, is that in the last 15 years we have almost an  inexistence of innovations. 

I think this was true for many years, but I would argue that the last ten years of the utility industry have seen innovation embraced more than maybe any other time in the industry's history! To give a taste of those innovations (digital tech, distributed generation, load shifting programs, EE breakthroughs, and more!) I'd recommend checking out our recently published Energy Innovation special issues:

Part 1

Part 2

Sergio Feitoza Costa's picture
Sergio Feitoza Costa on Apr 3, 2020 5:47 pm GMT

Hi Matt. I  appreciated to read your comment.

You gave me good examples of what  I wrote in the article. Please note that my article is clearly focused in equipment for substations (innovations for the market)  and not in regulation.

However, I will use two of your examples to explain my view. I say that the term "innovation" has been frequently used to say that some technological advances (or changes in legislation) are  new things when they are not.

To be important and useful is not to be innovative. The electric lamp and the telephone were innovative. The use of less regulation, in the USA, for natural gas (1970-1980’s) was innovative. Before, LNG was burned without use in the chimneys and became a very used fuel. Making - at a reasonable cost - a commercial -power transformer or a GIS system based on superconductivity is innovative although superconductors are an old concept.

About the examples that you mention as innovative for the last 10 years I would say that:

 ( a ) digital tech, if you refer as  electronic tools, systems, devices & resources to generate, store or process data, started in the 60’s to 70’s. For electric power transmission and distribution, they became popular with the  SCADA systems to automatize, monitor and control substations, etc… Important and useful but was an innovation in the 80’s and 90’s (not now).
( b ) Distributed generation is a term widely used since the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act of 1978 (PURPA). In 1998 I had to learn about this to apply trainings like http://www.cognitor.com.br/Decidix.html . The novelty I saw in the distributed generation was to reduce the resistance of the power utilities to accept the inclusion of new local loads in the interconnected system. It is not an easy process. I participated in some government programs for motivating investors for small hydro, wind, solar and biomass. I learned that the potential is enormous, but the power utilities are natural barriers to things that are against their immediate business interests.
As I mention in the article, referring to equipment for substations, , I would love to read somewhere a list of the 10 more wished “innovations”.  Kind Regards and thanks again

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Apr 3, 2020 9:19 pm GMT

Appreciate the insights, Sergio!

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