BRICS countries have been employing geospatial technology in various capacities in planning, generating, transmitting and distributing electric power, but have a long way to go in developing smart grids with well-integrated, spatially aware enterprise architecture.
The BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) are geographically, culturally and economically diverse, but have one common point on their agenda — the rapid development of the energy industry as a national priority. This is owing to the fact that the primary contribution to the projected increase in world energy consumption (the International Energy Outlook 2013 projects 56% growth between 2010 and 2040) comes from the BRICS. The energy use in non-OECD countries is projected to increase by 90% as compared to an increase of 17% in OECD countries. The BRICS countries represent 36% of total global renewable power capacity and almost 27% of non-hydro renewable capacity in 2012
The BRICS nations have a vastly varying degree of utility infrastructure sophistication, capacities and technology adoption. From a renewable energy perspective, they range from Brazil, whose electric power generation capacity is about 70% renewable, to Russia, which has just started looking at renewables as a way of diversifying a heavily fossil fuel-based economy. From an electrification perspective, they range from Russia, which achieved universal electrification in the 1930s, to India, where 300 million people are still without access to power. Most of these countries have an objective of reducing energy intensity. China is the most aggressive given the rapid expansion of energy production, primarily coal, that has occurred over the past decade. Reducing different forms of energylosses is also a priority in all these countries with energy conservation in the form of energy efficient buildings is getting attention.
BRICS countries have been employing geospatial technology in various capacities in planning, generating, transmitting and distributing electric power. Here is a snapshot of the application of geospatial technology in these emerging countries.
Brazil: Diversifying Energy Mix
The IEA projects that Brazil’s energy demand will increase by 80% through 2035, driven by the national objectives such as universal access to electricity. About 72% of Brazil’s electric energy capacity (74GW) is hydroelectric generation. However, the threat of prolonged drought has motivated Brazil to diversify its energy mix. Also, the proposed 2014 FIFA World Cup and 2016 Olympics to be held in Brazil are demanding the reliability of the electric power system. The IEA projects that Brazil will increase significantly the deployment of onshore wind power, natural gas and electricity generated from bioenergy (bagasse primarily). Universal electrification and non-technical losses are major problems in Brazil. It is estimated that up to 30-40% of Brazil’s electric power consumption is non-revenue generating. The National Agency for Electric Energy estimates that electricity worth $4 billion is stolen each year. Other challenges include rapidly increasing demand, grid reliability and increasing energy efficiency.
The Itaipu Hydrolelectic Dam generates 20% of Brazil’s electric power
Accurate geolocation of assets
The Brazilian electric power regulator, ANEEL, has defined a set of guidelines to achieve three major objectives for which smart meters will be necessary. The guidelines require utilities to supplyprecise geographic information about the location of cables, transformers and customer metering points. This is set to improve asset management in a number of ways, one of which is to reduce the duration of outages by being able to locate and repair/replace failed equipment faster.
This effort to improve the quality of geolocation information about electric power facilities has been underway in Brazil since 2008. At that time, ANEEL promulgated guidelines that required power utilities to achieve 95% accuracy in geolocating their facilities by 2010. In Brazil, this has been a compelling event that motivated power utilities to invest in technology to optimise business processes. This regulation put Brazil in a position to have one of the most reliable digital models of its network infrastructure in the world which is seen by ANEEL as a prerequisite for the Brazilian smart grid.
In South Africa, Eskom, the State power utility, has accurately mapped all of its transmission lines (532, 400, 275, and 220 kV) and substations. Eskom embarked on this exercise about two decades ago and today has all its assets up to the last mile mapped.
The Indian government’s ambition to bring in power sector reforms in the country, saw the launch of Restructured Accelerated Power Development & Reforms Programme (R-APDRP) in 2008, which envisaged asset mapping of the entire distribution network at and below the 11-kV transformers and include the distribution transformers and feeders, LT lines, poles and other distribution network equipment. As of now, this has progressed quite well in many states but is yet to be completed owing to delays in state procurement policies and procedures.
Russia: Tapping Renewable Resources
Russia achieved national electrification by the 1930s. At present, its installed capacity totals 230 GW, of which 68.7% is thermal, 20.7% hydro and 10.6% nuclear. Russia is the world’s fourth top emitter of CO2 in 2009, contributing 5.2% of the global total. It plans to reduce its GHG emissions by 15-25% by 2020 compared to 1990 levels. The 2009 national energy plan calls for the expansion of renewable energy generation, which was practically zero until that time. The country’s distribution infrastructure loses 12-14% of transmitted energy — worth about $10 billion every year.
Smart grid technologies are already being and will be increasingly deployed in Russia. Driven by the 2014 Winter Olympics and the 2018 World Cup, investments are projected to grow in the Russian smart grid market from $5.5 billion in 2012 to $15.7 billion in 2017. The green building movement has only just begun to take root in Russia. Russia is the last major developed economy to organise a green building council.
3D model of booster compressor station and digital terrian model for the Yurkharovskoye Oil Field, Russia
Generation and T&D
Utilities in BRICS countries are often quite advanced in their use of geospatial technology for planning and operations. South Africa is a fine example. Eskom, which generates 95% of the power supplied in the country, employs about 200 GIS professionals and uses geospatial technology in all the phases of power sector, including generation, transmission and distribution.
Some of Eskom’s power plants are as old as 50 years; most are about 20 years old. GIS is used to help prevent unplanned shutdowns of older power plants in particular. 3D models have been developed for some power stations, in particular the Koeberg nuclear power station, to improve safety, operational efficiency and reduce costs. Laser scanning has been used to produce highly accurate models of power plants. For some very new plants, BIM has been used to design buildings and other structures.
As part of its preventative maintenance programme, Eskom is using geospatial technology, including LiDAR, in detecting building foundation shifting to identifying problems potentially leading to outages before they occur, according to Mfundi E Sango (Pr.Eng), Senior Manager (Planning COE & GIS), Eskom. GIS is used to map seismic faults, direction of prevailing winds, and geological structures all of which can impact the structural soundness of generation facilities. Other areas of generation where geospatial technology is used by Eskom are air and water pollution analysis, ore body modelling and environmental assessment. Eskom builds about 800-900 km of new transmission lines each year. Digital terrain models, aerial photography and classified vegetation maps are used to identify potential routes for transmission lines.
At the distribution level, a major area of focus is rural electrification. Eskom has been working on mapping the distribution network for the past two decades to support universal access to electric power. GIS is a critical component along with economic impact modelling in determining the optimal plan for rural electrification. Eskom partners with municipalities to map electric power usage down to the individual house. It has also developed programmes to help municipalities develop the requisite GIS skills. Eskom develops maps showing the kW load per household, which are also used for routing crew for routine and emergency maintenance work. These help to reduce the duration of outages by routing crews to failed equipment.
In its GIS-enabled asset database, Eskom records the cost of equipment and labour required for each type of construction activity. As part of the pre-engineering design process, this allows the utility to provide accurate estimates of the expected cost of new construction.
The R-APDRP project in India also talks about the adoption of IT applications for meter reading, billing and collection; energy accounting and auditing; MIS; redressal of consumer grievances; and establishment of IT enabled consumer service centres by the state-run electricity boards. Though this seems a distant dream as of now, the private electric utilities are much ahead in technology adoption. For instance, the Kolkata-based CESC Ltd, the first power utility in India to implement GIS way back in 1990, is currently working on a consumer indexing project. GIS-based services were launched in January 2013 in three of CESC’s 10 LT network operational districts, while the remaining seven are nearing completion. Delhi-based BSES Yamuna Power Ltd has also seen improved operational efficiency following integration of GIS and SCADA.
India: Stepping up Generation
India has an installed capacity of about 229 GW, of which 87% is thermal (mostly coal) and 13% renewables. The country currently suffers from a major shortage of electricity generation capacity. At the end of 2011, over 300 million citizens had no access to electricity while only 9 of 22 states were recognised as completely electrified. Electrification is a national priority and about 15% of federal funds are allocated to the power sector. Reliability is a major challenge — much of India is subject to frequent power outages. To meet these challenges, the IEA estimates that India will require 600-1,200 GW of new capacity by 2050 or about $135 billion in investment. In India, average power losses, referred to as aggregate technical and commercial losses (AT&C), have been officially reported as 23% of the electricity generated. The government has made reducing AT&C losses a priority and has set a target of reducing them to 17.1% by 2017 and 14.1% by 2022. As of December 2011, India had an installed capacity of about 28 GW of renewable electricity. Investments in renewables reached $10.3 billion in 2011, up 52% over 2010. India’s goal is to double renewable capacity by 2017. The India Smart Grid Task Force, set up in May 2010, aims at addressing the three top pain-points reduction of technical and non-revenue losses; peak load management; and integration of renewable energy into the grid. The government has also proposed a new national energy conservation building code for designing of new commercial buildings. Currently, green buildings make up less than 5% of the Indian building market, but it is projected that once the National Building Code is amended, 50% of new buildings could be built ‘green’ by 2025.
A GIS-based model is used in several BRICS countries to facilitate electrification planning. For example, a South African planning model uses demographic and other data from GIS datasets togetherwith a score sheet to quantify the ‘assumed benefits’ of electrification of all non-electrified settlements in a target region. The costs of different electrification options (grid, mini-grid and solar home systems) are then derived for each settlement using experience based look-up tables. The system prioritises projects and technologies, based on the ratio of ‘assumed benefit points’ and cost. The model operates as a first pass tool — facilitating long-range strategic level planning for entire regions (including 50 to 2000 settlements). It can be used to assist detailed engineering planning. The GIS model is linked to a macro-level financial and economic analysis, which provides regional and national level forecasting of the economic impacts of the micro-level technology and prioritisation decisions. Together, the two systems comprise a powerful information and scenario analysis tool to assist policymakers and electrification implementation agencies in the process of electrification technology, budgeting and prioritisation decision-making.
In South Africa, where the impact of the electrification programme has been very extensive, planning decisions have been of crucial importance to communities, as they make the difference between getting no benefits from the programme and receiving an effective per household subsidy on the order of R3000 to R5000 ($280.50 to $467.50) per household.
A recent report from Navigant Research estimates that the market for smart grid technologies will reach $73 billion in annual revenue by 2020. The benefits of geospatial technology are clear to many in utility operations and maintenance. But with the rise of the smart grid, the benefits will become increasingly evident to planners, managers and C-level executives throughout utility organisations. Utility leaders need to start thinking differently about how and where geospatial information can be used. They need to define technology strategies for spatially aware big data and develop a vision for how analytics will supply real-time information to help achieve their business objectives.
Smart grid is still in its infancy in the BRICS, but Brazil and China are investing significantly in this area. Brazil has taken a major stride forward (and ahead of many developed countries) in mandating that all utilities compile and maintain accurate geolocation data of their network infrastructure. Total smart grid investments in Brazil will increase to $36.6 billion by 2022, according to a study by the Northeast Group. In 2009, the electric power regulator ANEEL set a non-binding target of replacing all 63 million existing electromechanical meters with smart meters by 2021.
China: Focusing on Smart Grid Agenda
The total electric power generation capacity of China reached 989 GW in 2010, only slightly behind the United States. About 67% of this is coal, 20% hydro, 3% gas, and 5% onshore wind. China’s power industry is projected to grow 6.6-7.0% annually for the next 10 years. About 30 million rural citizens currently lack access to power. A rural electrification programme currently underway relies on off-grid technology, a mixture of small hydro, photovoltaics and wind power. China is already the world’s biggest carbon emitter and its emissions continue to increase. In January 2012, China established goals of reducing carbon intensity by 17% by 2015, compared with 2010 levels. It also plans to meet 11.4% of its primary energy requirements from non-fossil sources (renewable energy sources and from nuclear power) by 2015. China’s five-year energy plan for 2011 through 2015 includes smart grid technology as a key industry focus. It is estimated that China is spending a total of $590 billion in implementing its smart grid agenda over the period 2011 to 2020. The government has recently announced that green buildings will account for 30% of new construction projects by 2020.
3D rendering of the Tuoba power station in China, which has redefined its water and power management policy with large dams
The original geospatial tool, GIS, has today evolved from being merely a software for drawing maps to an effective location-aware decision support system. An Accenture Research analysis of US Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) data for electric holding companies that serve more than 3 million customers indicates that spatially aware applications are enabling improved planning and management of utilities’ billion-dollar assets. This can redirect or save up to 10% of their annual operations and maintenance costs, estimated at $500 million to $750 million for a large utility.
But with the rapid deployment of smart grid technologies, GIS is now evolving from a tactical support tool to playing a foundational role in the utility sector. The combination of geospatial technology and big data from intelligent electronic devices such as smart meters create opportunities for a new era of decision making. This integration enables utilities to forecast requirements and expenditures needed to optimally maintain the grid.
South Africa is rapidly increasing its renewable energy capacities, especially to bring electric power to the remaining 15% of the population. Linking this to the grid will require smart grid technology. In addition, reducing technical and non-technical losses is becoming a top priority and one that is expected to provide an immediate payback. Smart grid is also expected to help with reducing the frequency and duration of outages. At Eskom, GIS is a key technology to enabling planning and implementing Eskom’s smart grid roll-out.
Also with increasing demands on the work force, utilities are using geospatial data to help bridge the knowledge gap between experienced electrical workers and the new skill requirements of the smart grid. Visualisation of network infrastructure based on location is becoming an essential tool in designing sub-stations and transmission lines by enabling stakeholders, including the public to experience these additions to the grid before they are constructed.
South Africa: Towards Universal Electrification
Electrification is a priority in South Africa, owing to the fact that about 15% of households are still without access to power. South Africa’s abundant renewable energy resources, primarily wind and sun were largely unharnessed for power generation until last year, when the government began encouraging private investors to produce clean electricity for the national grid to reduce dependence on fossil fuels. Roughly $5.5 billion has since been invested into the country’s renewable energy sector. Non-technical losses are another cause for concern. During 2011-12, state utility Eskom reported a total energy loss of about 14,000 GWh within its distribution networks, of which between 25-40% can be attributed to non-technical losses. The South African Smart Grid Initiative was launched in 2012. Smart grid is seen as an opportunity to introduce grid modernisation while addressing a $32-million maintenance, refurbishment and strengthening backlog and the challenge of technical and non-technical power losses. The Green Building Council is leading the transformation of the South African property industry to ensure that buildings are designed, built and operated in an environmentally sustainable way.
Using GIS and demographics to qualify and quantify electric power demand in South Africa
Courtesy: GTI Geoterraimage
Powering the BRICS’ Future
The priorities that have been identified above for utilities in BRICS countries make it possible to forecast the types of applications that utilities will be increasingly deploying in the future.
Spatial analytics to drive utility performance: One of the primary drivers for implementing smart meters and AMI in Brazil and India is reducing non-technical losses (AT&C), a priority even in many advanced economies.
Oracle’s survey of 151 North American senior-level electric utility executives with smart meter programmes highlighted the greatest benefits from the application of predictive analytics. The top benefit identified by the respondents was improving revenue protection (70%), also known as reducing non-technical losses. Other benefits identified include reducing asset maintenance costs (61%), reducing asset replacement costs (57%) and reducing infrastructure costs (54%).
Bradley Williams of Oracle Utilities has made a convincing case that spatial analytics drive utility performance because utilities’ biggest issues have a spatial component — customers, assets, and employees. There are a number of areas, which have a spatial dimension, where significant benefits from applying spatial analytics to smart grid data can be expected. These include:
- Reducing non-technical losses: Identify illegal tampering automatically. This has been one of the first areas where analytics has been applied by many utilities. The payback is typically significant and immediate.
- Targeting demand response: Prioritise customers for conservation and demand response programmes using geospatial techniques such as energy density mapping.
- Distribution operations planning: Target customers with very high peak load to help them cut down peaks by staggering powering on ventilation, heating/cooling and lighting.
- Transformer load management: Identify transformers that are overloaded or underutilised. Mapping transformers in near real-time allows the network to be reconfigured to rebalance transformer loading.
- QA/QC data quality: Improve the quality of connectivity information, specifically, for the secondary network by linking transformers, conductors, and other equipment.
- Voltage correlation: Analytics to link meters to transformers.
- Energy modelling: Analyse usage patterns including unmetered usage from street lights and other devices.
- Voltage deviation: Identify transformers with voltages deviating from rated voltage by 2-3% or more.
- Geospatial outage frequency analysis: Analyse all outage patterns geographically to identify patterns.
- Predictive analytics for electric vehicle adoption: Identify PEV owners and predict demand patterns to ensure adequate transformer capacity is in place.
Situational intelligence: As more intelligent devices are added to the smart grid, the need for situational intelligence becomes more critical. Advanced analytics and visualisation in space and time based on network topology provide holistic insights into power grid dynamics that have not been possible before. Both South Africa’s Eskom and China Power and Light have invested in technology that is helping them improve their oversight of their power grid.
Integration of geospatial and other enterprise systems: The Electric Power Research Institute has made a strong case that the first step in achieving an integrated smart grid IT system is integrating advanced metering infrastructure with GIS in order to reliably link customers’ physical addresses to the utility’s service points and geolocation. This enables a wide range of other systems to be integrated with the AMI and GIS, including outage management system, data analytics and workforce management system.
Real-time big data: The development of scalable, geospatially enabled solutions built on an open, service-oriented Web architecture and ‘big data’ technology such as GeoHadoop and incorporating spatial analytics will enable real-time monitoring of grid status and automated decision-making.
Aerial imagery for solar energy deployment: Oblique imagery and other forms of inexpensive nearly 3D imagery can be used with a GIS to enable solar contractors to quickly, easily and accurately calculate solar exposure, panel placement, sizing, roof pitch and square footage — information that is essential for positioning panels for maximum sun exposure and energy output.
Energy efficiency of new buildings: Energy performance, natural lighting, solar radiation and other analyses will soon be used by architects and engineers to optimise energy and water usage and reduce emissions for new buildings. Combining a BIM model of the building containing the key elements of the structure with the geographical location of the building, surrounding geographic features and the local environmental conditions, thermal, lighting and airflow simulations can be performed to estimate how much energy the building consumes in a year.
Almost half of the new commercial buildings that will be launched in Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo and Curitiba in the next two years will be green buildings. In the worldwide ranking of LEED registrations and certification processes, Brazil ranks fourth. The Brazilian Soccer Federation (CBF) is planning to make the 2014 World Cup the world’s ‘First Green World Cup’.
Energy density modelling: Conservation and demand management (CDM) is increasingly becoming a priority for utilities in BRICS countries. Energy density mapping using a GIS helps take the guesswork out of targeting customers for (CDM) programmes. Detailed building and property information such as building age, sun exposure, heating type, air conditioning, and parcel data, standard metrics for different building types, and lifestyle profiles and demographic data, can be brought together and managed in a GIS.
Real-time disaster management: Smart meters provide invaluable information during typhoons, earthquakes, and other natural disasters. When integrated with a GIS, the smart meter information provides an accurate visualisation of the impact of the disaster on the utility’s infrastructure. It can map areas in detail down to the building level in near real time where power has been lost, all without making a telephone call.
3D transmission line siting, design and visualisation: All BRICS countries are rapidly expanding their transmission networks. This requires accurate digital terrain models, integrating data from total stations, airborne lasers and photogrammetry. Terrain models, 3D engineering models, sag tension and structural analysis, spotting, and drafting can be integrated into a single environment to streamline siting and design process.
3D visualisation has become a critical component of transmission line siting, especially in urban areas. Gaming technology has been integrated with engineering design tools to enable photo-realistic modelling of transmission lines and sub-stations before they are constructed to make the stakeholders, including land owners, government officials and regulators, understand how exactly transmission lines look after construction and also offer design alternatives.
Bringing the field into the office: There is a worldwide shortage of engineers and skilled labour in the electric power sector. Utilities in BRICS countries are competing for trained resources with other industry segments in a rapidly expanding economy. Utilities are finding that tasks that used to require sending staff into the field can now be done much more efficiently in the office using high resolution orthophotos, oblique imagery and LiDAR. In 2014, low cost, high resolution, near real-time satellite imagery will start to be available, which can be effectively used for this purpose.
Automated vegetation management for transmission lines: LiDAR, imagery and GIS mapping are used in planning vegetation management for transmission lines. Transmission lines are typically scanned utilising a fixed-wing or helicopter-based platform. Feature extraction to create models of conductors and pylons and algorithms to classify vegetation into multiple priority categories based on the risk of causing an outage are increasingly being automated.
Geolocating underground facilities: Accurately geolocating underground resources is a worldwide challenge. According to national statistics, in the United States an underground utility line is hit every 60 seconds on an average. In the Lombardy region of Northern Italy, which includes Milan, a pilot project to map all underground infrastructure estimated a return on investment of about €16 for every euro invested in improving geolocation information of underground infrastructure.
In BRICS countries, the problem is exacerbated by rapid expansion of the utility infrastructure. Brazil’s electric power regulator has already recognised the benefits of knowing accurately where utility infrastructure is located and it is expected that as in Brazil, ensuring accurate geolocation of above ground and underground infrastructure will become a priority for regulators and governments in all BRICS countries.
Utilities in BRICS countries are uniquely positioned as they have been using GIS as an operational tool for some time and are familiar with its capabilities. At the same time, they are not encumbered to the same extent by old, legacy IT systems based on operational silos that remain a challenge for utilities in developed economies. Their work forces are younger, more internet savvy, and more willing to adopt new technologies.
However, the BRICS also face a wide range of challenges, the critical ones being the universal electrification, especially in rural areas; rapidly increasing demand; the need to decrease energy intensity by deploying more renewable energy sources; reducing the high rate of energy losses, especially non-technical; and improving energy efficiency.
The development of a smart grid with a well-integrated, spatially aware enterprise architecture can improve asset management and better opex and capex planning of utilities. The dawn of this data-driven, geospatially aware era promises new opportunities to deliver improved availability, efficiency and affordability. If utility leaders in the BRICS understand the vision and seize the opportunity, they could propel these countries into a leadership position in the electric power utility sector.