Digital Transformation in Response to COVID-19

Digital Transformation

Will short-term adaption to Covid-19 drive long-term success for utilities?

Digital transformation has long been an aim of TSOs and DSOs across Europe. Nonetheless, after Covid-19 placed around a quarter of the world’s population in lockdown and with social distancing measures set to be in place until wide-scale testing or a vaccination becomes available, utilities have been forced to adapt their processes to support remote working.

Furthermore, digital technologies are playing a crucial role in successfully maintaining grid operations and intelligent, data-driven investment decisions are even more crucial with reduced availability in supply-chains and limited infrastructure construction. Only time will tell of the lasting implications of this enforced digitalisation, but as Europe begins to lift lockdown restrictions, we thought it would be good to provide insights on important work utilities have been doing to adapt and keep the lights on throughout this uncertain time. 

Asset Management: Will disruption foster innovation and boost operational efficiency in the long term?

With Grid Asset Management 2020 fast approaching, we took time to speak with some asset managers in the industry to reflect on how Covid-19 has impacted their day-to-day work, and what this means for their long-term strategy.

There have been many challenges imposed by the global pandemic – from the transformation in customer consumption patterns to limitations on the number of workers on the ground. Nonetheless, the paradigm shift has allowed many utilities to leapfrog their digitalisation roadmap. It is believed that the speedy implementation of digital working will enable utilities to make substantial operational efficiency gains in the future, with the notion of incremental digitalisation out of the window.

For instance, in many cases, asset managers have had to adapt to the reality that condition monitoring and remote servicing are no longer a luxury, but a necessity. In order to protect the safety of their staff they have had to quickly build internal capacity and shift all processes that can be done remotely to digital platforms. Digital asset management solutions form the backbone of this way of working, as they provide insights into the health of infrastructure on the ground without necessitating onsite visits. Furthermore, asset health data informs targeted investment decisions and network simulation tools enable greater grid visibility to keep the network secure in the future. Greater grid visibility allows utilities to better diagnose stresses on their network, improve operational efficiencies and build a resilient future grid. With limited infrastructure construction currently available asset renewal strategies and infrastructure creation must be data-driven and target crucial assets. 

With regards to maintenance, remote condition monitoring can eliminate unnecessary manual work and reduce the number of personnel involved in onsite servicing, monitoring and testing. Fieldwork can be prioritised to ensure workers are not sent out when servicing isn’t necessary and those who can work remotely via digital platforms, in collaboration with those on the ground via mobile devices or digital software. Particularly as transmission and distribution assets are often spread over a wide geographical area, throughout lockdown restrictions, the ability to assess the condition of assets at a distance has never been more valuable. Furthermore, the shift from reactive to predictive maintenance strategies is also something that is a step nearer by jumping up the digitalisation ladder. It is clear that long-term investment in digital training and advanced analytics is needed to sustain digital growth.

Has rapid adaptation changed perceptions on digital transformation for good?

From our research it became clear that a crucial thing that has emerged from the disruption caused by Covid-19 is culture change, with regards to the acceptance of digital technologies. This period of adaptation has altered people’s perception to understand digital transformation as key to modernising grid services. Furthermore, it is also understood that this shift in mentality is essential for sustaining adaptive business strategies and increased adoption of digital tools. Successful utilities will leverage digital transformation to drive long-term value and grid modernisation, with their workforce aware of the value of streamlining their processes through digital platforms. Leading utilities will be able to run their processes faster, cheaper and, ultimately, build a more resilient grid.

To keep pace with digitalisation trends, having a knowledge deficit during the Covid-19 crisis cannot be an option. As a result of our market research we have decided to mirror the industry and adapt the new digital paradigm, by converting all of our 2020 events to a virtual format to more appropriately support utilities’ information needs at this challenging time. Like the utilities, we are optimistic that this shift will create new avenues for innovation and improve our processes in the long run, by providing new ways for the industry to engage with our conferences.

Grid Asset Management 2020, 29th September – 1st October, comes at a pivotal point as the industry emerges from the lockdown restrictions. It will be an opportunity for utilities to share their experiences and streamline their processes further, without the need for travel.

To ensure that our participants get the maximum out of these interactive, virtual events, we are asking that they specifically take the three days out of office to ensure they take the time to absorb all of the critical information packed into our agendas. Our virtual events have been produced in the exact same way as our physical events, to create thoroughly researched, content-rich programmes that strike the perfect balance between practical implementation strategies and cutting-edge innovation.