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Blog: Digitisation is transforming hydropower operations and maintenance

The move towards digitisation is changing the way in which hydropower plants are operated and maintained. The International Hydropower Association (IHA) estimates that, by 2030, over half of the world’s hydropower plants will be due for upgrade and modernisation or have already been renovated.

At a meeting of the African Union’s Specialised Technical Committee on Communication and ICT last month in Addis Ababa, Ministers concluded that “digitisation is the greatest opportunity for Africa to drive the fundamental changes of the world in the 21st century, if wisely harnessed and mainstreamed.”

In the hydropower sector, enhanced digital controls are part of a growing trend towards improving the performance of turbines, plants and equipment, by reducing costs and optimising asset management.

Equipment manufacturers are embracing digitisation as a way to widen their scope of services. It is their belief that digital control systems and software can play a major role in improving decision-making and supporting hydro operations to work more efficiently with other renewable technologies.

IHA is closely monitoring the trend towards increased digitisation in hydropower through its knowledge-building programme. Last month we participated in a panel discussion on the subject hosted by Voith Digital Solutions at HYDRO 2017 in Seville, Spain.

The panellists, who included Voith Vice President Incubation Dr. Felix Flemming and Magdalena Paluch of BCG Digital Ventures, argued that advances in mathematical modelling have led to the development of highly sophisticated optimisation software, and that digital control systems can optimise reservoir management and maximise revenues for power producers.

Digitisation certainly promises to improve decision making and could be instrumental in the modernisation of the existing fleet of hydropower facilities. 

Bill Girling on Why Hydropower Will Play a Greater Role in the Digital Age

 

To put the arguments of the equipment manufacturers to the test, and give hydropower operators and other organisations an opportunity to ask their own questions, on 28 November IHA hosted a webinar on ‘The digitisation revolution in hydropower operations and maintenance’.

Over 60 of our members joined the online forum to hear representatives from GE and Voith discuss the latest innovations in digitisation and how it may change the way they operate and maintain hydropower assets.

The presenters were quizzed about issues of cyber security, skills and recruitment, and whether digitisation is just for developed countries. An important outcome of the webinar centered on the importance of building institutional capacity in developing country contexts.

At IHA, we are committed to helping our members to expand knowledge on the digitisation of hydropower. We want to help members understand and overcome the common challenges associated with the operation and maintenance of planned and existing facilities.

To assist in building capacity among our membership, IHA is supporting industry leaders in OECD countries to share their experiences with peers in other regions. This is a product of IHA’s knowledge programmes, and our longstanding experience working with the World Bank among other international financial institutions.

Future activities around this important topic will be announced in 2018, with the aim of holding a focus session on digitisation at the World Hydropower Congress in Paris in May 2019. In the meantime, if you have any questions please contact me at bg@hydropower.org for more information.

The recording of IHA’s webinar on digitisation is available as a resource for all IHA members by contacting communications@hydropower.org.