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  • Member since 2020
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  • May 14, 2021

Asked by: Executive Consultant, ESTA International 

Could you define precisely ..semantic definition of Digital twin?

This question was posed during a recent Energy Central PowerSession: Can Integrating Design, Construction and Grid Data Make a Digital Twin a Reality?

The PowerSession was so lively and packed with great information that the panelists were not able to address all the questions live, so we thought we would bring the question into the community. By posting the question in the community, anyone can follow the Q&A and or even participate.

In case you missed the live event, you can access the on-demand recording by following this link

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Well, please allow me to try giving it a shot. 

When a digital documentation of your grid allows your organisation to answer questions related to the grid then you have a digital twin.

This immediately leads to a new question: which are the questions your organisation wants answers for when it comes to the grid - I asked a question during the session on this (Any thoughts on what the digital twin (data model) should allow for considering what business processes the data should support? | Energy Central).

Having worked with this for decades my answer is: 

  1. Exact location - also on the underground assets.
    We heard in the session that US utilities spend 10 billion USD a year refinding / marking up cable locations. With exact, digital geolocation information you will save this money. And you will avoid accidental outages caused by hidden cables becoming damaged. 
  2. Asset information data
    With information on manufacturer, asset type, and asset age you will support valuation of the grid, planning of maintenance and reinvestment, ...
    Whereas asset information historically has been managed in a separate asset management solution like SAP or Maximo I urge combining the asset information with the geographical information to allow easy access to field crews for such information. This way any user has access , may benefit, and may help keeping information up to date.
  3. Plan data 
    Although a utility grid is fairly static in nature, at any time numerous plans are in play; Plans for smaller grid extensions e.g., connecting a new home, to complete greenfield projects. Such plans too belong to a digital twin. It thus is important for planners, maintenance crews, etc. to know that grid improvement projects are on the way.
  4. True and complete connectivity
    Above, I urged keeping asset data as central part of the digital twin - this goes also for assets inside substations, cabinets, poles etc.
    Besides the above mentioned benefits, this will allow also keeping a complete connectivity model up to date. Which overhead line is connected into this substation. Which transformer feeds this line through which breakers.
    Having this level of detail will allow the data from your digital twin to support ADMS and advanced grid calculations without anyone having to spend time enriching this data.


Well, is this even possible. That's a lot of work. And complicated. 

Sure it is. Possible. And a lot of work. But not working systematically with this will lead to ,more work - only with an unstructured outcome.

We see many utilities working with this already today. We see utilities having an almost complete and perfect digital twin of their electric grid. 
We operate digital twins based on various software platforms allowing the utilities to deliver valuation extracts, perform complete grid analyses, deliver all data needed for their ADMS, support streamlining of field crew work...

I do believe one day we should arrange an EnergyCentral PowerSession on how the digital twin may actually become real already now.

Electric utilities are facing enormous challenges and we must work together, learn from each other in order to deliver and hence support the societies for which we deliver energy.

Best Regards


Jens Dalsgaard

Principal Product Owner


Danny Petrecca's picture
Danny Petrecca on May 25, 2021

Jens, thanks for your well formed and comprehensive answer!  As the panel discussed in the PowerSession - it is important to think about the perspective of the user of the Digital Twin when attempting to define it.  This definitely adds another layer of nuanced complexity.  This is useful, because it might cause some people to realize they can benefit from a Digital Twin adding more support to the effort of building and maintaining one.