Power Systems Analysis Tool Adequacy Survey

This is the result of a survey I conducted for my MBA. Most of the people that took the survey are employees and managers from European TSO’s and North American ISO companies that were involved in power systems planning or simulation. I know that, because I contacted them individually but I did not record their data in the survey itself. Other participants are power system professionals and academics from my network. At the time of writing, 53 people have completed the survey.

The next question asks if the tools that we use are ready for one of the greatest challenges in the industry: To adopt renewable energy to decarbonize the electric sector. So, are the tools that we use ready for that? the answers I allowed are are a bit tricky because I didn’t want to simply put Yes or No as the options for such an important question. Instead, I put “Yes, we need to adapt them” and “No, we are working on it“. If you think about it, these two are the same answer: “No, the tools are not ready and that forces us to take action“. That accounts for 80% of the answers.

Hence, the next question: Do you need to develop software because the tools are not ready? The answer is yes. To some degree, we are forced to develop tools internally because the commercial ones do not fulfill our needs.

What about CIM, the so-called standard format?It looks like people are in the process of adapting it. In my experience, the CIM adoption goes very slow because it is a nightmare. It is remarkable though that 25% of the people don’t know what CIM is.

From my experience, this is the key question of the survey. It translates to: How “bottleneck” are the tools in your process? The answer is “very much” since the results lean towards a “very labor intensive” collaboration.

The next question is about Web and cloud based tools. The distribution of the answers is not very surprising; most are doing something in the cloud, a significant portion cannot have anything on the cloud due to internal policy and a minority will migrate everything to the cloud. In general, regardless of where the “cloud” is, server-based technologies enable collaboration.

The next question asks if people want anything other than Windows? 30% of the participants want their programs to run in an alternative environment to Windows, 45% are fine with Windows as their only option and a 25% are indifferent. It should be noted that if a program is only for Windows, that disables it in practice for server environments where Linux reigns with a market share of 96%. So in practice, Windows only means no cloud.

We use many different tools to get our results, but how integrated among them are they? This question asks the bottleneck question from a different angle. It asks about the amount of work required to go from tool A to tool B to get things done. People consider that things are not so bad, but still labor prone.

This is a big one and I admit I was biased. This question asks about the potential use of open source software in electrical companies. I was expecting a lot more “No, it cannot be trusted” but instead I get the complete opposite. People are in favor of using open source programs that have been properly tested.

The next question asks about the integration of the tools with GIS systems or simply tools like google maps. Apparently, the tools are not integrated with maps very much. This needs to change since power systems, and specially power systems planning requires maps for having a sense of the impact of your work and also for better visualization and understanding of the results.

The next one asks about the usefulness of several methods when learning how to use a new program. It is remarkable that people find the vendor trainings to be the least useful method, even behind learning by yourself. On the other hand, video tutorials and examples are the most appreciated. We certainly need more of those.

Are you going to be involved in a software development? The majority of the participants think that it is likely to be involved in a software development. That makes sense because, since the vendor solutions are not addressing our issues with their products, there has to be software developed to deal with that. Therefore, we have to be involved in requirements gathering, testing or directly by programming.

Here I sprinkled some topics that are common challenges. All of them require some attention but the people deem that optimization, flexibility and better visualization definitely require more attention.

Finally, the last question, are you happy with your current set of tools?. This is the one I’m having a hard time understanding. People seem to be OK or happy with their tools; My problem understanding this is that if you have a very labor intensive collaboration process and you need to adapt the tools to make them useful for your work, how can you be happy? Could it be that we accept the current situation? Could it be that there is no conscience that the amount of labor to collaborate in a common model could be zero? or that the map integration could be complete and effortless? or that the tools could be fully integrated?

Then, eight people felt like writing some extra remarks that I find very much on point.

Any other comment (these are comments from the survey)

  • Fully integrated analysis software with GIS software would be wonderful. Additionally, it should have a troubleshooting module related with mistakes in GIS.
  • Looking for tools to address specific challenges in offshore sectors.
  • Thank you for the survey. As a developer of open-source software, I think one of the most important issues is really the ensure compliance between different data models and have reliable data interfaces.
  • Data manipulation and conversion (e.g. from SCADA or fault recorders) for input into models is still a big challenge for us, particularly trying to integrate multiple data sources.
  • The current tools used by TOs and ESOs will not be sufficient to operate renewable energy grid. They need to pivot to measurement based models.
  • Modeling wind/solar, and batteries/load responses/P2X require changes in tools – more data and more chronological assessment for flexibility needs and sources, also shifting loads by hours and days
  • We are pushing to Open source go-development through the initiative LF Energy which we launched with the Linux Foundation
  • Some degree of standardization in tools would be nice (this would allow to share expertise among TSO community for instance)

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