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Welcome Vijay Rajsekar, New Expert in the Digital Utility Community- [an Energy Central Power Perspectives™ Expert Interview]

Posted to Energy Central in the Digital Utility Group
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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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  • Jun 11, 2021 10:45 am GMT
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After a recent spurt of cybersecurity breaches and emergencies, the importance of digital assets is finally getting as much attention by the public, mainstream media, and political leaders as the physical assets on the grid. That relative importance in everything cyber is anything but news to those who are truly plugged into the power sector, but at long last it’s refreshing to see that focus come more broadly.

As a way to keep the pressure on the utility sector and those stakeholders who have a role to play, Energy Central is always seeking to bring you the most cutting-edge and critical news and insights in the world of the digital utility. Part of that is making sure the leaders of this evolution are counted among the Energy Central Community, including being made available to provide their perspective in a formal way as a part of the Energy Central Network of Experts.

As a part of these continued efforts, we were recently able to secure another great expert for our Digital Utility Group, Vijay Rajsekar. Vijay is the Principal OT Architect at PG&E, where he focuses on infrastructure of grid OT systems as well as deployment of ADMS. His insights from the frontlines of the major California utility are a welcome addition to our community, and he agreed to kick off that expert process with an interview as a part of the Energy Central Power Perspectives ‘Welcome New Expert Interview Series’:

Matt Chester: Let’s start simple—the goal of these interviews is to introduce you and your expertise to our community, so they know where and when to look for your expertise. So, I’ll give you the floor to do just that: what is your background in the energy industry and what do you do today?

Vijay Rajsekar: I have around 33 years of experience working in different areas of transmission & distribution systems engineering, planning, and operational control systems. I started my career as power systems engineer doing distribution systems planning for urban feeders in India for different utilities. I had to gather all feeder data and run balanced power flow for feeders to eventually determine future expansion and perform loading calculations. From distribution planning work, I transitioned to work on development of subsystems for distribution SCADA and eventually transmission systems. All along my career, I have worked on different phases of SCADA system like requirements analysis, project engineering, configuration, testing, parallel operations, cutover, and post go-live maintenance for several utilities in the United States. In my current role at PG&E, I am part of a core team implementing the next generation ADMS.

 

MC: So much focus in the utility industry is on physical assets, like grid infrastructure and power plants, but your work is focused on the digital assets: software, OT systems, etc. Do you think within the utility industry there’s enough of a focus on these digital assets? Do you think they warrant more attention and/or resources than they’re getting?

VR: Yes, there is more emphasis and focus on digital assets, OT systems, data analytics, and grid modernization within utilities. In the United States, there has been an uptick of smart grid projects since 2009 when the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) was signed. Smart meter deployment paved the way for utilities to look at interval data from distribution points. For many years, grid modernization focused on improving transmission systems reliability and interconnection capacity. In terms of funding, generation and transmission area received bulk of investment as compared with distribution systems.

 

MC: As you look at more automated technologies getting integrated into the grid, how do you see the role of the utility employee evolving? Are they going to be replaced by automated technology? Is their job going to be reshaped? How will it influence the future utility workforce?

VR: The introduction of new operational systems like OMS, DSCADA, DA, ADMS, and DERMS has changed the landscape of distribution control centers and the personnel operating the grid. These OT systems provide far more granular situational awareness of different aspects of grid. Utility operations is now relying more on digital data starting from meter all the way to generation assets. DERs have changed the modern grid to a bi-directional highway requiring utility workforce to rely more on IT and OT systems to plan, operate, and maintain the grid. Data analytics play a key role in maintaining a safe and reliable grid. In my opinion, fully automated grid operations might happen after many, many years depending on OT systems mature.

MC: With the grid modernization topic, you spend a lot of attention on becoming even more important with each year, how do you keep up to date on the latest technologies and possibilities? Are you frequently sharing with your counterparts at other utilities? Do you have internal teams who are creating the future technologies to focus on? Do you tap into the academic research side?

VR: Utility personnel must constantly keep up to date with latest IT and OT trends in operating and maintaining the grid. Operating the grid reliably and safely requires adoption of new technologies like using drones for vegetation management and line inspections, data analytics to assess health of assets and pre-determining their failures, and advanced forecasting tools to handle natural disasters like tornadoes, ice storms and wildfires. Utilities work with academic institutions and national research labs in sharing experiences and lessons learned with fellow utility professionals. Professional associations like IEEE, Cigre, and forums like Energy Central enable utility professionals to share their experiences. Most utilities have grid innovation or grid modernization teams who focus on upcoming challenges and issues facing the grid.

 

 

MC: What has you most excited about the next decade in the digital utility space?

VR: I see convergence of IT/ OT domains, AI, VR, Smart cybersecurity deterrent systems, and remote sensing technologies to enable utility workforce to do their work more efficiently and meet future demands from consumers like increased usage of battery storage, microgrids to island remote communities during natural disasters, electrification of transportation sector and cloud services for utility systems.

 

MC: As an expert on Energy Central, we’re definitely looking forward to the insights you’re going to be able to bring. Can you share what it is about Energy Central that compelled you to get involved and integrated with the community? And what should community members look forward to you bringing to the table as our newest expert?

VR: I find the discussions and topics in Energy Central given by a wide range of professionals very helpful. I can spot emerging trends and look at forums about current challenges facing utility sector. I will be writing about my experiences and lessons learned in implementing major digital initiatives and OT programs for utilities

 

 

MC: What topics are you most looking forward to discussing on Energy Central moving forward?

VR: The recent Texas power outages has thrown up many questions on grid planning, grid interconnections and management of DERs. I see a healthy debate in technical forums, publications, and academic presentations about this issue and how to prevent the next big outage.

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Thanks again to Vijay Rajsekar for joining our Expert Network and sharing his time and experience with the community. As you see Vijay engaging across Energy Central, be sure to share any comments or questions with him to tap into his wealth of knowledge!

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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