Holistic Analysis Creating a Viable Business Case for Utilities

By gaining a better understanding of the whole business from the outset, utilities can expect to save a great deal of time and money.
Published: Wed 30 Mar 2016

The transformation that the energy industry is faced with is one of serious complexity. There are a number of aspects that need change and, without the relevant expertise, utilities will find themselves wasting a great deal of time and money which will not bode well in an industry which has become increasingly competitive.  

Certainly, a more holistic approach to industry needs is called for. With experts analysing every part of the business case, an accurate assessment can be made as to which solutions are appropriate and viable.  

We spoke to Steve Stapleton, Consultancy Services Manager at S&C Electric Company, who highlighted the offerings of S&C's expert Consulting and Analytical Services (CAS) department and how its studies can help form a viable business case and provide the end customer with real added value.

Step-by-step guidance to save time and money

The CAS in-house experts assist utilities right from conceptual network design and innovation strategy development to the supply of equipment, commissioning, and training.

“There is a lot of change in the energy industry. Smart grid, energy storage and the regulatory environment, to mention a few, can bring about many challenges if not tackled in a holistic way. The main aim of CAS is to provide internal support both upfront during the sales process and also when assisting the engineering team during project delivery. We strive to select the best products or solutions for projects ”

The S&C Electric CAS team also carries out external work, assisting customers with the specialist modelling and analysis of power system related to their electrical networks and projects.

“The CAS team carries out an analysis of the project’s needs and challenges before the sales consultant makes any suggestions around solutions. Our research into the whole picture better equips the consultant to offer appropriate solutions from the get-go so that, for instance, an over-investment doesn’t occur .”

One of S&C Electric’s customers, Arizona Public Service (APS), saved over $187k on a project which involved the purchase of 16 S&C Remote Supervisory Vista® Underground Distribution Switchgear units to power a new office complex supporting 12,000 workers. After APS purchased Vista switchgear, S&C Electric Company proposed conducting comprehensive Factory Acceptance Testing (FAT) on the units at the new S&C FAT Center in Chicago. With APS representatives participating, S&C could not only perform thorough testing but also mimic field conditions to simulate commissioning of the gear—all within the walls of the state-of-the-art center. S&C developed a custom plan to allow APS to test its equipment and supplementary devices, including control panels and SCADA screens. This saved APS thousands of dollars.

Analysis providing deeper insight

But, it’s not only about technical functionalities and capabilities. The CAS team also takes a deep look into the customer’s business case and the economics involved. Steve points out that this should be done from the outset so that business limitations can be dealt with right from the beginning. For instance, CAS will check whether the proposed solution complies with relevant legislation and technical requirements in conjunction with commercial viability.

“We aim to guide customers through the changes that have to be made whether it’s adjusting to new regulations or adopting new technology.  Through our analysis, we gain an understanding of their drivers and point of view. This will help us to fully understand their problems and draw a clearer picture of their needs.”

S&C also works hard to overcome a restrictive regulatory environment by working closely alongside regulators, helping them to understand new technologies and their potential benefits. He points to the rules around energy storage in the UK as a good example of this.

In addition to internal work, CAS also helps external customers that may not have the technical expertise to carry the work out themselves.  

For instance, it is well known that renewable energy sources play a vital role in the process of transitioning to a low carbon economy.  S&C’s CAS department specialise in aiding wind farm developers reach the grid code requirements. The S&C team get involved at the project concept and design stage, by completing connection feasibility assessments and assisting with connection applications.  S&C continues to support their customers through to commissioning with assessing optimal grid connection points, fault level and dynamic studies, harmonic assessments and reactive power compensation assessments.  

The CAS department have excelled at conducting technical loss studies for Distribution Network Operators, helping them to better understand their systems, increasing the efficiency of their networks and collating project submissions for Low Carbon Network and Innovation funding. Building on the success of a previous project, S&C, in partnership with LIG Consultancy Services LLP and HFDE Ltd, delivered a report to Scottish and Southern Electric Power Distribution summarising a literature review of losses reduction methods.   Based on S&C’s vast experience in Great Britain and internationally, the literature review assessed various transformer switching related aspects and available mitigation options, an electro-magnetic transient analysis evaluating the impact of controlled point-on-wave switching, and finally an in depth analysis on the impact of repeated switching and prolonged de-energisation of a substation transformer on its health and lifetime.  This report successfully supported the Scottish and Southern Power Distribution’s ‘LEAN’ project which was awarded £2.67M from Ofgem’s Low Carbon Network  Tier Two funding .  

Mind the gap

“Complexities of solutions on the market can sometimes be difficult to understand. Sometimes there is a gap and miscommunication between decision makers (those who order tech solutions) and those working in the field. It’s a partnership between us and the customer as we are helping them to solve their problems. Often, the company may not have understood the magnitude of the problem and what the solutions are. This is where we fill the gap.”

Mr Stapleton advises: ”Engage with CAS as early as possible to ensure the correct designs and solutions are implemented. In doing that, companies can expect to save time and money whilst ensuring compliant technical performance.”