In a conference room in early 2017, a group of Transmission operators, supervisors, and executives at Ameren sat down in an effort to craft a strategic analytics roadmap that would tackle the new challenges associated with transmission operations. One of the first questions the group posed to itself was: “What is going to be different in 5 years?” After several furtive looks around the room, one Transmission Operations Supervisor said, “Most, if not all of us, will not be here due to retirement”. That simple observation formed the basis of an analytics roadmap that would focus on 8 key areas of execution to improve efficiencies, bring new decision-making data to life, incorporate more visualization through geospatial and other visualization techniques, and form the basis for advanced analytics including predictive capabilities for asset health, real-time situational awareness, and improved state estimation and contingency analysis.
What to Do First
Detailed discussion in the roadmap session also uncovered that the transmission operators were spending time managing the process of restoring RTUs so that contingency analysis and state estimation had the necessary real-time information to solve the analytics equations that the EMS/SCADA systems required. Operators were spending much of their time each day performing the very manual process of working with the Ameren Network Operations Center (NOC), and the Ameren Field Relay Technicians were chasing RTU problems ranging from aging equipment, to the complications of rolling out a new telecommunications infrastructure to eliminate all the analog 4-wire circuits connecting a large portion of Ameren’s RTUs. All this took the transmission operators from their real day job managing the transmission network for optimal, safe, delivery of energy. These factors combined, made it evident that there was a need to find a way to cut through the noise and make better use of available data that enables operators to perform more efficiently. Coupled with a strong ROI, prioritizing an RTU Health Dashboard as the first use case to be developed from the roadmap was an easy decision.
Where to Start
To begin, Ameren examined the existing tools to assist in the analysis and recovery of failing RTUs and the limitations in those tools causing the inefficiencies. The tools supplied by the EMS/SCADA vendors were limited, provided too much information, required significant drill down by the operators to find root causes, and did little to help the other groups involved in the process responsible for providing decisioning information to restore RTU operations.