Monitoring and Diagnostics set to play a crucial role in RIIO-2

As TSOs’ & DNOs’ plans develop to meet the new round of legislation, there will be a greater-than-ever focus on M&D.

In May this year, Fundamentals reported on satellite-based technology that could enhance fault prediction in the UK grid. However, this is only a small part of meeting the challenge if integrated monitoring and diagnostics (M&D) is set to play a crucial role in the development of the UK’s power distribution system. 

As the full details of RIIO-2 draw ever nearer to publication, the TSOs & DNOs are releasing draft business plans laying out strategies for meeting the legislative and consumer demands over the coming years. A case in point is Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN), one of the first to publish a draft plan, in which it reveals the importance of M&D systems in implementing its strategy. 

Scottish Hydro Electric Transmission (SHE), part of the SSE group responsible for the electricity transmission network in the North of Scotland, highlights the value of data as an asset in improving resilience and availability of the network. This resonates with the Energy Data Taskforce’s recent comments that data will be key to the future of the UK’s energy system. A core part of that will come from integrated monitoring hardware and software and use of the IEC 61850 international substation communication standard.

According to the draft plan document, at the time of RIIO-T1 the number of SSEN critical sites requiring smart monitoring equipment installed and operation was zero. By 2025/26 the company forecasts critical plant items on 61 sites using this technology with an estimated expenditure of £13m. The primary aim of this M&D investment is delivering improved efficiency in direct operations, according to the SSEN, although inspection and maintenance costs are still set to increase from just £3m in 2013/14 to almost £20m by 2026.

In developing and enhancing assets, the DNOs will first need to identify and assess asset risks. In SSEN’s case it is undertaking several international benchmarking studies. The most important is the International Transmission Operations and Maintenance Study (IOTMS) – now in its fourth cycle and involving Fundamentals Ltd amongst other major suppliers.

On a micro level, as all DNOs build their RIIO-2 business plans, M&D investment is likely to include pragmatic solutions embedded within sub-stations alongside organisation-wide technologies. These could range from circuit breaker and on-site display and alarm units, to gas and moisture discharge monitors for transformers, transformer bushings, bushing adaptors and tapchangers. Some years ago and working with GE, Fundamentals had identified the need for this technology as a key element in improving the health and performance of the grid. Now these systems are likely to become industry standard across the network. 

As recognised by SSEN, implementation will involve up-front investment. However, this, along with effective tapchanger and voltage control relay refurbishment, will ensure what could amount to significant longer-term savings in reliability and ongoing maintenance.