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Technology Leadership and Execution at ENMAX Power

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Kris Girten's picture
Marketing Manager UDC

With a background in marketing and public relations, Kris has 7 years experience in the electric and gas utility industry leading marketing initiatives for UDC, a Digital Utility® services and...

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  • Oct 13, 2021 5:28 pm GMT
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Becoming an industry-leading power provider begins with a vision and is achieved through purposeful, deliberate planning and action backed by technology leadership. Capitalizing on its recent Downtown Grid Enhancement project, ENMAX Power is taking proven Geographic Information System (GIS) technology and using it to improve operations, emergency preparedness and management, safety, and reliability for its power utility customers.

Ron Lewis, GIS and Asset Records Manager at ENMAX Power, understands the value in utilizing the GIS to provide the visualization and automation of his utility’s primary and secondary underground assets.

“The GIS gives that full visibility that our planners and designers have been looking for. That ability to take this information into other power engineering tools to do the load flow analysis. To be able to do the tracing and see exactly where all that secondary mesh goes within the various busses that we have in the downtown.”

ENMAX Group of Companies

Headquartered in Calgary, Alberta, with operations across Alberta and Maine, ENMAX Corporation operates across the energy value chain as a regulated wires company, a competitive power generator, and an energy retailer through its subsidiaries: ENMAX Power, Versant Power, and ENMAX Energy.

ENMAX Power owns, operates and maintains the transmission and distribution system in and around Calgary, serving approximately half a million customers across 420 square miles.

With a focus on reliability, safety, and innovation, the utility continually invests in its customers and communities through finding affordable solutions for renewable energy, connecting new or expanded residential developments, and relocating company infrastructure to accommodate new city projects. ENMAX Power is continually rated as one of Canada’s top quartile systems for reliability by the Canadian Electricity Association.

Calgary Downtown Grid Enhancements

ENMAX Power embarked on creating a fully connected digital model of the downtown primary and secondary mesh networks within their GIS to increase safety and improve management capabilities for its underground system. As the next phase of this project, the team is looking at enhancing grid management by having the GIS feed its Advanced Distribution Management Solutions (ADMS), including power flow analysis and leveraging outage management functions.

To establish the connected network in digital form, an updated, accurate inventory of its underground assets were first needed. ENMAX Power field crews conducted an extensive inspection of the utility’s downtown underground system including primary and secondary networks, third party cabling, and fiber. The crews entered each company manhole and vault and recorded the circuitry, documenting detailed information regarding duct occupancies, duct locations, and butterfly diagrams.

Working with Esri Canada, UDC digitized the data collected by the crews to be utilized by the GIS technology and adapted the software implemented to manage the underground network data. This information became the new, standardized digital base of assets for the applications that now manage the mesh network. The new system employs a host of Esri ArcGIS and Schneider Electric software including ArcFM, ArcFM Web, Underground Facilities Manager (UFM), Fiber Manager, and ArcFM Mobile.

Improving Mobility, Ensuring Safety

Prior to creating a connected model of Calgary’s downtown underground system within the GIS, ENMAX Power field crew members transported large binders of detailed schematic/CAD drawings with them to each site for reference. “We’ve been working on older systems for visualizing our plant – for keeping record of our plant for the longest time,” shares Andre van Dijk, VP, Strategic Initiatives at ENMAX Power. “It’s a huge step forward in modernizing the tools by means of which we manage a really important part of our electrical system.”

Now, crews have the infrastructure of every manhole and vault at their fingertips, just by logging into ArcFM Web.

ENMAX Power recently rolled out its full mobile solution that operates in an offline mode for its iPads, lending the field crews greater visibility, ease of access and the ability to make decisions in real-time. In addition to managing company owned underground assets, which now includes fiber infrastructure, the utility can now also effectively manage its third-party communications infrastructure that runs through ENMAX Power ducts.

The GIS is also integrated with ENMAX Power’s AutoBookin system, providing another level of safety for the field crews. Each crew member is required to register with the bookin system prior to entering any confined spaces. That way, the System Operations team knows which crews are in which underground areas that allow for safe switching operations

Managing Change

Involvement from the field crews and engineers early on proved vital to the project’s success. “The excitement was starting to build when we were having the field crews support the field investigations,” Ron recalls. “As we started to roll this out to show them [the field crews] the capabilities, it built a lot of strong momentum within the whole company and especially with the field crews.”

Besides physically collecting the infrastructure information from the manholes and vaults, the crews were given exposure to ArcFM Web prior to the project go-live this past March. Since deploying ArcFM Web to all field crews, the company has received extremely positive feedback on the software functionality.

Creating a fully connected digital model including a secondary mesh network and modernizing its tools were important steps for ENMAX Power. Previously, its data was largely stored in individual engineering design files which did not reflect a connected system view nor allow for proper network management. The GIS solution has increased visibility and management capabilities for its downtown networks while decreasing outage duration. Maintaining a GIS also provides the company with one sole, authoritative record of electric infrastructure. The next iteration of the initiative will progress from designing in a CAD environment to designing directly in the GIS.

“We are that hub for the visualization, for the analysis and for sending that information back out for future designs.” – Ron Lewis, ENMAX Power

Advancing Emergency Preparedness and Management

ENMAX Power’s technology leadership and vision execution are contributing to advancements in how it prepares for and manages emergencies within downtown Calgary. It recently leveraged its enhanced underground management system to perform mock flood exercises. Floods occur in Calgary around the start of summer due to a combination of high rainfall and snowmelt emerging from the Canadian Rocky Mountains. For the first time, the utility has the capability to superimpose different layers, including inundation zones and flood evacuation zones, with its civil and circuitry data. This layered information allows ENMAX Power to visualize the number of customers located in each individual evacuation zone and gives the company the knowledge of the nearest fuses and switches in the event of zone isolations. According to Ron, the reach of the data is unparalleled. “To be able to have all this information and to be able to share it amongst a wide group of users throughout the company – just a tremendous benefit.”

Distributed Energy Resource Integration

ENMAX Power is the first Canadian utility to propose a solution for more reliable, affordable clean energy through its innovative, multi-year project to enable two-way power flow on ENMAX Power's secondary networks. Funded in part by Natural Resources Canada through Canada’s Green Infrastructure Program and Alberta Innovates, ENMAX Power developed a method that allows bi-directional power flow on its secondary mesh networks which supply high-density areas of Calgary and currently only support one-way power flow due to highly reliable design. Partnering with Cadillac Fairview, a leading commercial real estate company headquartered in Toronto with a focus on innovation, photovoltaic solar panels are being installed on the roof of CF Chinook Centre to test the concept. ENMAX Power’s distribution system operators will be aided by a Supervisory and Control Data Acquisition (SCADA) system in managing and monitoring the solar panels. The project aims to safely integrate surplus renewable energy produced by ENMAX Power customers back into Calgary’s secondary mesh networks for other customers to use.

“What’s unique about this project is the scale we’re embarking upon. It’s been problematic in the past to have these projects at scale in a secondary mesh.” –Andre van Dijk, ENMAX Power

This ambitious initiative seeks to solve difficulties that affect electricity grids across North America. The goals of the solar project include lowering greenhouse gas emissions, reducing the carbon footprint of Cadillac Fairview’s operations at CF Chinook Centre, building the resiliency of the electricity grid by rendering the grids more reliable for customers and businesses, and providing urban residential and commercial customers more choice in how they generate and use electricity by making renewable energy more affordable. The project is anticipated to be completed in 2023.

The utility’s new connected downtown network is proving to be a crucial criterion for these groundbreaking projects. “We now have an outstanding model of our infrastructure in the downtown,” says Ron. “We can really see how it is all going to work together with some of these new, innovative projects.”

The Power of Data Analytics

A field that has proved instrumental to ENMAX Power is data analytics. Andre is an advocate for exploring the value of applied analytics. Analytics “enable us to draw some inferences that wouldn’t be possible without those tools.” The utility is recognized across North America for its application of analytics in areas such as predicting cable failures and pole fires, forecasting daily load, and identifying power theft. Andre’s hope is to expand this skillset across the company. “The explosion of data and then the ability to harness that data becomes all the more important,” reflects Andre. “In order to do that properly, you need people with both the analytic skills and the domain knowledge to be able to know which questions to ask.”

Consumer-Focused Future

As ENMAX Power looks toward the future, the team aspires to advance by democratizing and decentralizing its electricity, decarbonizing its energy sources, and digitizing more of the data for use in data analytics. The company is dedicated to continuing to prioritize the needs of its customers.

“For us, it’s absolutely key that we get closer to the customer – that we make it as easy as possible to do business with us.”
–Andre van Dijk, ENMAX Power

Andre imagines a future where customers can connect with the system in a different manner than previously, embracing less customer reliance on the utility for energy. “To some extent, we become the backup to whatever their energy solution is,” Andre says. “We think there is a huge role for utilities, distribution utilities in particular, to play in managing that market between neighbors trading energy.”

“In order to get from where we are now to get to where we need to be, there’s going to be a lot of outside-in thinking and developing solutions that are really meaningful to our customers. We need to have a deep understanding of what the customer really wants and for them to be excited when we deliver it,” says Andre.

Industry Outlook and Vision

The next two decades will prove to be an exciting period for ENMAX Power and for utilities in general. For ENMAX Power, the future holds the electrification of transportation and of heating for both space and water.

According to Andre, two-way energy flows will be an industry challenge for distribution utilities in the future which requires both data and innovation. “As soon as you have this two-way flow of energy, our system, our practices, our processes become so much more complex, and you need data for that,” Andre states. “You need instantaneous data in many cases.”

And according to Ron, innovation is only possible when there is a vision. “You need the vision.”

Combining vision, execution, and the ability to introduce and support adoption of proven GIS technologies, ENMAX Power is tackling grid modernization, safety and reliability issues head on. In doing so, it emerges as an industry leader, paving the way for other power utilities to do the same.

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