The balance of power
Philip Mason talks to the Joint Radio Company’s Adrian Grilli about the challenges
facing the electricity generation industry, and its growing reliance on comms tech
When you mention the words ‘mission
critical’ – at least to those on the
periphery of the sector – the rst thing
that the majority of people think about
will most likely be the emergency services.
is is, of course, completely intuitive, given just how
public-facing organisations such as the police and the re and
rescue service are, both in terms their presence on the street
and in the nightly news.
At the same time, however, there are also numerous
other industries which require their communications to be
if anything even more responsive than that used by those
involved in public safety. ese include aviation, as well
as utilities – that is, the provision of water, gas, electricity,
and so on – the latter of which employs dedicated SCADA
technology in order to regulate and monitor its systems.
As interesting as the provision of energy in and of itself is
from a communications point of view, the sector is likely to
become yet more compelling going forward, given ongoing,
massive changes which are taking place across the board.
ese include the evolving nature of the grid itself, with
the former ‘centralised’ generation model being gradually
replaced by numerous, varied, sources of renewable energy
sat increasingly at the edge. e other, possibly even
more profound, change meanwhile is the sheer volume of
additional power generation capacity that nation states are
likely to require should innovations such as electric cars catch
on as predicted. Both of these, alongside other innovations
such as smart metering, will likely lead to a wholesale rethink
when it comes to comms, for instance as the industry weighs
up LTE in relation to SCADA.
Adrian Grilli is chief technology ocer for the Joint Radio
Company (JRC), a telecommunications consultancy service
working on behalf of the UK utilities sector.
Discussing the changing state of the industry, he says:
“Traditionally we’d have a relatively small number of large
plants – generating around two gigawatts each, such as the
nuclear power station at Sizewell in Suolk – delivering to the
consumer via transmission and distribution networks. e
model was centralised, with the power being generated near
to where it was consumed, for instance along the ames.
“at situation is changing now, with those stations, which
primarily ran on coal, being increasingly replaced by smaller
power plants mainly fuelled by gas, or renewables such as
wind and solar power situated in rural areas. at being the
case, while as a society we no longer like our power generation
taking place near high-population areas, the electricity still has
to be conveyed to that population.”
He continues: “Another issue with things like windfarms
is the intermittent nature of what’s being generated by them.
Again, traditional connection agreements worked on the basis
that you would be able to generate at maximum power, all
the time. Wind turbines and solar power don’t do that – and
would overload the system if they did – so we now need to
keep track of the power which is being generated.
“By dynamically monitoring the power lines as well
factor for the
sector is how
capacity is likely
to be required in
16 www.criticalcomms.com March 2019