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CIGRE 2018: A report on the Paris Session [free access]

October 11, 2018

CIGRE’s 47th session was held in Paris from 26 to 31 August 2018. CIGRE organises this event every two years. According to the organisers, over 3,600 delegates among 9,600 participants from 98 countries attended CIGRE’s technical exhibition. Over 300 companies exhibited their products and services in this exhibition. It was interesting to see that apart from the traditional transmission and distribution (T&D) equipment and services providers, the exhibition attracted several companies offering products and services targeted for the grid of the future.


The electricity industry is going through a significant transformation brought upon by the demands for a reliable, secure and cleaner energy system. Integration of cleaner and distributed generation, digitisation of infrastructure, and empowerment of the customer are the three main objectives driving innovation in the industry. Renewables, distributed energy resources (DER), storage, microgrids, electric vehicles (EVs), blockchain and artificial intelligence (AI) are some of the themes resonating in the industry. The electricity system is changing and new market structures are needed that value flexibility, support multidirectional flow of data, and facilitate the integration of new aggregators, prosumers and emerging business models.


New technologies and services are emerging to address the challenges and harness the opportunities emerging through the transformation of the electricity industry. These new technologies not only help T&D utilities predict, manage and control increasingly complex and decentralised electricity networks, they also aid in improving customer relationships. At the same time, more informed and engaged customers are likely to play an increasingly active role in helping utilities meet energy efficiency, energy management, flexibility and grid balancing objectives. CIGRE’s 2018 conference and technical exhibition showcased and debated on emerging trends and new technologies shaping the evolving grid.


‘Digital’ was definitely the buzzword at the CIGRE exhibition. The big T&D equipment giants such Siemens, ABB and GE showcased their latest offerings in this space. Siemens presented its digital substation technology, what it calls the future built in. In a press release, the company explains that its new approach to digital substation solutions offers digital, systemic and physical protection to support asset and power grid resilience, making use of comprehensive data connectivity through an open cloud-based platform for the Internet of Things (IoT).


ABB showcased its digital power transformers under the ABB AbilityTM. These solutions come with transformer monitoring capability – aggregating, analysing and managing transformer health data collected through sensor-based technology. These transformers will be equipped with a digital hub that can leverage a portfolio of smart devices on a modular platform with plug-and-play capabilities, the company said in a press release.


GE’s Power Grid Solutions business also introduced new digital solutions at CIGRE 2018, including a ‘digital twin’ for power transformers. This digital twin enables effective asset performance management to extend asset life and maximise operational performance. In a press statement, GE stated that advanced sensor technology with a digitised secondary system delivers condition-based data and statistic models to build a software-enabled model of the transformer or even the entire substation: the twin. This interactive model allows operators to move from reactive to predictive maintenance solutions and improve system efficiency.


Another new technology/application that caught the interest of the visitors was the use of virtual reality (VR) in digitised grids. ABB is using VR as a design tool to allow customers to experience the project realistically even before construction has begun, and to make timely changes. This allows the project construction process to be optimised, increasing efficiency in terms of time and costs, and improves safety. GE also exhibited its VR applications for training services for its customers, such as utility, power generation and mining companies. According to GE, VR offers a flexible, affordable and safe alternative to training in the field.


Apart from these, various companies showcased several other new technologies and solutions to optimise operations and maintenance (O&M) processes and reduce time and costs. The use of these technologies is becoming even more relevant with the changes in market structures and business models where asset utilisation and optimisation becomes very important to maintain profitability.


In line with the changes taking place in the electricity industry, CIGRE has also changed its logo. This was announced by the CIGRE president, Rob Stephen, at the opening ceremony of the 47th session. CIGRE has changed its tag line from ‘International Council on Large Electric Systems’ to ‘for power systems expertise’. It now presents itself as a collaborative global community sharing knowledge and expertise. 


One of CIGRE’s recent collaborative initiatives involves effective dissemination of CIGRE know-how in Africa, an effort being jointly undertaken with the World Bank. Rob Stephen, president of CIGRE, is from Eskom, South Africa’s integrated electric utility. We have written a special feature on this in our current issue.


For more information on CIGRE’s 2018 session, please visit CIGRE’s website