Power is Nothing without (Remote) Control

Published on Friday, 7 November 2014

The spread of renewable energy has led to a leap in quality on the grid. Smart grids have become a part of the future, a complex world that involves the whole electricity sector and is bringing generation, distribution and consumption closer together. Innovation is unifying element of these worlds, and cutting-edge remote control technology is one of its fronts.

For 30 years Enel has been developing remote control systems for the grid. In the 80s the Group began equipping all of its 2,500 primary substations in Italy with remote-controlled monitoring systems, extending this to its secondary substations in 2000. Ordinary customers might be unaware of this activity, but it led a consistent improvement of electricity supply: in 2001 grid disruptions lasted an average of 128 minutes per year, but by 2013 that figure had dropped to 41 minutes.

From Italy the leap to the rest of the world came naturally. Enel introduced the expertise it had gained in remote control in each of the countries in which it distributes electricity, and as such grid monitoring has become increasingly common. In Spain the installation of the Cervantes electronic meters continues, while in Romania, thanks to Enel, more than 97 percent of primary substations are equipped with remote control systems that have enabled the country to equip itself with a technology that was totally lacking on its grid only a short while ago. In Latin America the Group has allocated $385 million to launch automation and remote control systems in Brazil, Peru, Chile and Colombia.

Prevention rather than cure is the objective of Enel's remote control systems. The leap forward made by telecommunications has opened a highway for the information travelling through electronic measuring tools, while the web has sped up processes and intervention management. Increasing automation has enabled the system to autonomously recover power for customers on the medium voltage network. Remote control is also now part of street lighting systems and is becoming a platform for weather forecast and traffic management and air pollution detection. This innovation is also useful in solving breakdowns and disruptions, since it enables the cross-referencing of an increasing amount of available data, aiding their prevention before they take place.