Transmission and distribution (T&D) utilities sit at the center of the decarbonization agenda. We require them to facilitate new generation types and greater electrification in transport, heating, and industrial processes, whilst simultaneously managing aging infrastructure in a tight financial climate and an operating environment rife with hazards and risks.

The role of digital technologies is on the rise in the utility industry, with innovations able to effectively target maintenance, preserve institutional experience and generate cost-efficiencies. One example of this is Sharper Shape’s Living Digital Twin (LDT). A real-time digital reflection of real-world T&D infrastructure, with the ability to be updated as and when new information is available.

Being able to identify risks early, using LiDAR and hyperspectral data to influence vegetation management, as well as mapping ‘what if’ scenarios to prepare for disaster events, epitomize the benefits of a digital twin. With challenges of new and old expected in 2023, digital twins have a vital place in utilities’ business models.

An aging industry

Considering aging infrastructure and an aging workforce, the numbers speak for themselves. For example, 70 percent of US transmission lines are now more than 25 years old.

With extensive investment in T&D assets unlikely to materialize in 2023, cost-effective ways to inspect and maintain infrastructure is necessary. Technology like Sharper Shape’s LDT can be part of the solution, supporting the remote inspection of vulnerable assets without the need for a team of linemen.

Extreme weather continues to dominate

Flooding, severe storms, tropical cyclones, and wildfires all pose risk to life, infrastructure, and the economy – and are increasing in their frequency, globally.

Powerlines are widely exposed to these events. To ensure the safety of life and infrastructure, predictive maintenance and vegetation management are critical. Utility managers can identify, prepare for, and mitigate risk factors by taking advantage of the LDT’s dynamic representation of assets.

All eyes on the energy transition

With renewables set to account for more than 90 percent of the expansion of global electricity in the next five years, T&D utilities face themselves increasingly involved in the energy transition as more intermittent generation enters the grid.

Sharper Shape’s digital technologies can assist utility managers consider different scenarios, asking ‘what if’ questions and visualizing the answers to understand how grid loads may change and what the impact on infrastructure would be.

Rising cost of energy

For any utility, maintenance is a costly affair, however, spend too little and the results can be drastic but overspend and it is inefficient. With wholesale prices escalating in response to geopolitical tensions, cost is high on the agenda for utilities.

By gathering accurate data and applying artificial intelligence, machine learning, and analytics, the Sharper Shape LDT can help T&D companies achieve accurate, safe, and predictive maintenance.

The year ahead

With T&D assets facing pressures from political, environmental, financial, and social avenues, digital technology is fundamental to a utility’s business model in order to ensure safety, while delivering reliable power to the communities they serve.

2023 is set for more challenges, thus opening the door for more digital solutions.

Download our 2023 and beyond: How accelerating trends in transmission and distribution (T&D) make the case for digital adoption whitepaper here or speak to one of our team today.