Digital twins in the energy sector are virtual – and often real-time – representations of the physical grid assets. Digital twins help utility companies improve planning and specifications, operational efficiency and personnel training. They also offer a way to stress-test important assets and systems in preparation for a wide range of scenarios, including severe weather episodes.
Digital twins “are applied across different energy domains. That’s why IEC technical committee 57 set up standardized communication means and associated machine-level semantics for supporting the interoperations of these twins. These can be found in the IEC 61850 and IEC 61970 common information model (CIM) series of standards, which are foundational standards for the smart grid,” explains Laurent Guise, an expert from IEC TC 57 and one of the founders of the IEC Systems Committee on Smart Energy (SyC Smart Energy).
Andrea Bonetti is a Senior Application Specialist for Relay Protection and IEC 61850 and an active member of TC 95 which prepares IEC Standards for measuring relays and protection equipment. “Protection relays are sophisticated real-time computers that monitor the electrical quantities in the power system and utilize their protection algorithms to check if there is a power system fault in their area of responsibility. If there is a problem, they issue an order to the relevant circuit breaker, to disconnect the power supply and isolate the area affected by the electrical fault, protecting people as well as assets,” he explains.
Bonetti points out that the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the digital transformation of the grid and acceptance of the use of digital technology in every domain related to the electricity network. “The use of digital twins allows testing activities to take place anywhere and anytime. While it will not totally replace on-site testing, it can significantly reduce physical testing, lower costs and contribute to an increased quality of the protection system,” he indicates.
Different technical committees working together
The IEC SyC Smart Energy has recently set up a joint working group with ISO/IEC subcommittee (SC) 41, which prepares global standards for the Internet of Things (IoT) and digital twin. SC 41 is part of the joint technical committee, JTC 1, formed by IEC and ISO to develop information and communication Technology (ICT) standards for business and consumer applications.
A similar joint working group was established between IEC TC 57 and SC 41 to find synergies for IoT applications in the distribution grid. According to François Coallier who chairs SC 41, “Our strategic approach is to generate foundational and horizontal standards, specifying the vocabulary, the reference architecture, interoperability and trustworthiness as related to the IoT and digital twin. A second part of the strategy is to systematically collect use cases across all application domains as well as elicit and document standardization requirements.”
Among the use cases, smart energy and smart grids are one of the key applications.
“The energy sector can bring quite a lot of experience and knowledge to the table, notably on the topic of the semantic interoperability of digital twins,” says Laurent Guise.
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