Power Technology Research (PTR) had an opportunity to visit the IEEE PES T&D conference in Denver, Colorado which took place from 16th to 19th April. The event was divided into two parts: conference sessions and exhibition. The conference section included various technical events which not only covered the latest advancements in power systems but also the bottlenecks faced by utilities operating in North America.
PTR’s focus was to understand how innovations in transmission and distribution (T&D) systems are aiming to address crucial issues faced by the power systems industry. Here are some of the key market trends observed by PTR’s analysts, after having discussions with key OEMs present at the conference:
• With increasing environmental awareness, OEMs are manufacturing products that minimize environmental impact. It was interesting to see that almost all major players are moving towards SF6 alternatives for gas insulated switchgears. PTR believes that affinity for these SF6 alternatives will increase in the future years as more utilities are opting for such solutions in North America. Additionally, in Europe, special applications like offshore wind is expected to be a major driver of the SF6-free GIS market. PTR expects that the US market will also experience a similar trend in the coming years.
• Low-probability high-impact events like natural disasters and terrorism resulted in equipment sharing programs to reduce the lead times of substation equipment such as transformers. PTR observed that other substation equipment is receiving similar design alteration to achieve mobility and plug & play capability, reducing the long lead times of 12-14 months for typical substation systems.
• Evolving requirements in energy consumption, due to factors such as electric vehicle usage, disaster relief, and expanding industrial works, continue to drive the market. The ability to meet near-term needs remains a key criterion in purchase decisions. The next year is as important as the next decade.
• While a fully “smart”, IIoT-driven grid remains the vision, costs are still a prime concern for utilities and municipal and regional governments. Manufactures appear to be taking a prudent approach by underscoring their value propositions.
• Incremental, rather than generational, product innovation seemed to be the highlight for many manufacturers, including increased efficiency, digitization, interoperability, and ease of installation and operation.
• The presence of various EPCs at the conference was a clear indication of their increased roles in the North American substations market.
• OEMs are working in close collaboration with utilities to address the bottlenecks in their networks. However, there seems to be an information gap between manufacturers and the energy intensive industries that also utilize grid equipment.