How to overcome the system planning challenge

January 16, 2018 Josh Wepman

We’ve heard it again and again: the electric power industry is going through the greatest transformation since its inception. Today’s utility investments must support renewable energy solutions, customer choice, energy storage, and a variety of other new or emerging technologies.

In the past two decades, the transportation, communications, and entertainment industries have seen transformative change driven by increasingly diverse customer demands for choice and convenience. These changes haven’t always been widely predicted and have disrupted these industries in ways not previously imagined. Now, utilities are at the forefront of a similar transformation. Transformative Change.png

Over the next 30 years, the world is on pace to transform its energy production and delivery dramatically.  Many U.S. states are already grappling with high levels of renewables and electric vehicle infrastructure; planners are facing major challenges to identifying and prioritizing capital investments due to forecast uncertainty; and utilities large and small are facing continuing revenue declines and needs to identify and develop new lines of business.  These forces, amongst others, will put significant pressure on traditional utility processes, transform how we do system planning/operations, and how utilities apply capital to a wide range of potential operating conditions. 

But how does a utility take steps to understand what the future state will be?  How do they respond to a range of future scenarios? System planners are faced with a growing list of challenges to overcome:

  • Forecasting load is becoming increasingly difficult and probabilistic
  • Responses to system issues related to reliability and safety are becoming more varied and complicated
  • Utilities must make investments that will be paid off beyond the change horizon
  • The impact of making the wrong investment choices is becoming more critical as competition for commercial and industrial customers increases.

System planners need to use today’s tools to plan for the uncertainty of tomorrow to maintain utility infrastructure, better allocate capital spending, and identify the most effective and innovative opportunities to support their customers.

Leidos is helping utilities overcome these challenges with advanced distribution planning. Leveraging the influx in available data, utilities can better understand load dynamics and create a range of spatial forecasts that account for a variety of future outcomes. They can build a defensible business strategy by applying automated load-flow analysis methods and advanced economic simulations. Through advanced distribution planning, utilities can regain control of the planning process and allocate spending to identify those areas that manage the most certain risks and offer the highest probability of success while optimizing capital expenditures. These solutions may include traditional distribution system improvements leveraging targeted, incremental investments, and may also include non-wires alternatives that help to minimize or eliminate direct system enhancement costs.

To learn more about how advanced distribution planning can help your utility, download the white paper or visit us at DistribuTECH 2018.

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